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July 2014 Newsletter

 

Have you ever known a year like it for slugs and snails? I bet the answer is no! Even here in the dry east of England they’ve reached epidemic proportions.
Slugs and pests aside, there is plenty to celebrate; July is one of the best months of the year for enjoying home grown fruit and vegetables and salads, and of course the flower garden is repaying all our hard work.
There’s grass to mow, containers to water and flower shows to attend; including two of our absolute favourites; the RHS Flowers Shows at Hampton Court and Tatton Park; both are a gardeners’ paradise! We’ll definitely be going so watch out for our show reports this month.
Even if you venture no further than the back porch in July, enjoy everything this warm and colourful month has to offer.

Happy gardening.

Pam Richardson

June in the Garden

Mediterreanean Patios

Create a fabulous patio display with tender plants such as Mediterranean palms and citrus fruit, and ornamental trees such as bay A few of these tender plants on the patio instantly give a holiday feel to the patio. Many of us grow bay trees in the garden; they are among the hardiest of Mediterranean plants. A standard bay tree makes a great centrepiece for a herb garden or use two to flank a path or to frame a front door. It’s not unusual to see tall, mature bay trees in southern and western parts of the UK; although most are grown as standards or bushes.  Further north, bay trees will need some winter protection, especially if they are grown in containers. In the summer they are superb patio plants wherever you garden. Just give them a sunny spot on a sheltered patio and enjoy your own taste of the Med.
Citrus fruits such as lemons and oranges also enjoy spending the summer outside. The blossom and fruits appear at the same time so you could be breathing in the scent of blossom while picking a home grown lemon straight from the tree. Gardening bliss!

 

 

Soft Fruit Heaven

Soft fruit plants and bushes are coming into their own in July. Strawberries have been cropping for several weeks already; the warm summer has suited them and the abundant rain has kept them cropping without the need for constant watering.
Soft fruit such as redcurrants, white and black currants are starting to ripen. The berries look almost translucent as they change colour and any sunshine helps to keep them sweet and juicy. Fruit bushes need plenty of water and lots of rich soil, so if you are growing your fruit in pots don’t stint on the watering and give them a high potassium feed to encourage the fruits; tomato food is ideal.
Gooseberries are best when they are left on the bushes for as long as possible to ripen, but beating the birds to the juiciest fruit can be a challenge!
Blueberries are super-nutritious and they thrive in pots. They do need acid soil but if your soil is chalky or you garden on limestone growing them in containers of ericaceous compost is the perfect solution. Water acid-loving fruits such as blueberries and cranberries with rain water and you’ll have the recipe for success with these delicious and nutritious berries.

Enjoy your Pond

The sound and sight of water is one of summer’s real pleasures. Sitting by the pond on a hot summer day is instantly refreshing, and spotting insects such as damsel and dragonflies or watching the birds taking a cool dip, is fun and relaxing.
Keeping your pond clear of algae and blanket weed is essential to the enjoyment, and it’s easy to do with our range of EcoSure products. Including everything from Extract of Barley Straw (no more unsightly bundles floating on the surface!) to a full Pond Clear programme. They are specially designed to keep water clear and sparkling without harm to fish or the environment. Water snails and molluscs also play their part; helping to clear the pool naturally by digesting  bacteria that causes green scum and algae.
Once the pond is clear and sparkling you can treat yourself to some new pond plants. Water lilies must be the ultimate in romantic planting! They add an unmistakeable touch of glamour to a summer pond, and you don’t need a vast lake to enjoy them because there are dwarf water lilies that will grow happily in the smallest pond!
Our online range includes everything from floating plants to water irises, and perennials that enjoy the boggy soil at the pond margins.

Find room for Clematis!

If your garden needs some extra colour and height or you want to clothe a wall or trellis with colour, some of the best climbing plants to choose are clematis. Clematis are worth a place in any garden, they keep the roses company in summer and these lovely plants can be in flower from early spring until late summer depending on which variety you choose. If you choose a container clematis they’ll even grow in pots and hanging baskets. We have some great offers on at the moment so there has never been a better time to buy.
Clematis armandii is an evergreen clematis that loves a warm sheltered wall; its starry blooms have a strong vanilla perfume.

If you have a strong arch or pergola Clematis Montana will cover it in no time, it bursts into bloom in spring and the flowers also have a delicious sweet almond perfume.
Hanging basket and container clematis have been specially bred to have compact growth without sacrificing the large showy flowers. Our hanging basket clematis collection looks spectacular on the patio.

  

Tips for the garden...

Keep your lawn looking good.

Ample rain and spells of sunshine have encouraged everything in the garden to put a spurt on, and grass is no exception.  Lawn weeds are growing too! Some gardeners won’t tolerate a single weed to spoil the pristine look of a lawn, while other gardeners are more relaxed. Daisies and buttercups, clover and self heal (Prunella) are just a few of the weeds that colonise grass. If you leave them they can add a charming meadow effect to a patch of grass but dandelions and ground ivy never earn their keep, they are best removed promptly. 

Weekly mowing keeps the lawn looking good and encourages stronger growth. It also weakens some perennial weeds. See our top ten mowing tips on the Unwins blog for more hints and tips.
Tackle lawn weeds with a weed killer that specifically targets broad-leaved weeds such as dandelions and buttercups. Resolva Lawn Weedkiller is strong enough to keep the weeds at bay but it won’t harm your grass.  Look at our range of lawn care products for solutions to problems such as fungal diseases, moss in the lawn or ants disturbing the soil.
Whenever you’re using weed killers, read the instructions carefully before you begin. Wear gloves and choose a dry, still day to avoid the possibility of spray drifting.

If you are going to be using concentrated weed killers regularly make sure you use the same watering can, Sprinkle bar or sprayer for every application. Professional gardeners use a red watering can for weed killer -the colour spells danger!!
Wash out the sprayer or watering can thoroughly after each use, and mark it with indelible marker pen if you think you may get confused with the equipment you use for normal watering or applying fertiliser.  Nothing is more heart breaking than killing off a favourite plant by mistake!

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Protect soft fruit

Everyone loves to see birds in the garden, they eat aphids, cheer us up with their singing, and help to maintain the natural balance of the garden; but when it comes to fruit they turn from angels to devils. All birds, and blackbirds in particular, have a passion for juicy strawberries, tasty gooseberries and most of all, ripe cherries. One day the fruits are on the tree and the next they have been gobbled up by the birds. Netting is the best protection and essential if you’re going to get the lion’s share of your fruit crop!
A fruit cage is the answer to protect fruit on a large plot. On a small fruit patch, a layer of netting is perfectly good protection for fruit such as strawberries or use it draped over small, wall trained trees and bushes. Drape the netting over the fruit and anchor it securely with pegs or large stones. Make sure the net is pulled taut so that birds can’t get trapped underneath it.
Slugs and snails also chomp through soft fruit so choose a gauge of netting that won’t allow the snails through! Nematodes watered onto the soil at planting time are still one of the best methods of slug and snail control in the fruit plot.
Look out for sawflies too, the adults are long and slim but it’s the caterpillars that do the damage; often stripping plants completely bare of leaves and leaving just the bare stems and skeletal leaves behind. Look for the caterpillars and pick them off the leaves, or use Nemasys Grow your own to control these destructive grubs.

 

Sow Oriental vegetables

It sometimes seems in summer as if seed-sowing time has passed, but Oriental Vegetable seeds from Unwins are perfect for sowing from midsummer onwards.  Oriental vegetables such as Pak Choi, Chinese cabbage and Mizuna yield plenty of delicious leaves.
These Oriental salad leaves put on the most growth as the days shorten so they'll keep going when other salad greens may be starting to bolt. Use them to add colour and crunch to stir fries and salads.
How to sow Oriental vegetables
Sow the seed thinly along a shallow row, sow directly outside where you want the seeds to grow. Water the row before sowing if the weather is dry. Cover the row by raking along it to cover the seeds finely. Protect from disturbance by cats and protect emerging seedlings from slugs and snails. Use a chemical control such as pellets, or use an organic method such as nematodes, beer traps or eggshells.
Thin the rows when the seedlings are a few centimetres tall and use the thinned seedlings as micro greens; final spacing for mature plants is around 15cm/6inbetween plants.
Keep Oriental vegetables well watered in dry spells and continue to protect from slugs and snails. Once the plants have matured you can pinch out the tops of any that are threatening to bolt; they’ll reward you with lots more tasty leaves.
You can either harvest plants individually or use as a cut and come again crop.

Right plant, right place

Perennial plants such as lavenders, monardas and penstemon are all putting on a show now. So if you hanker after a summer garden to rival the ones at the shows, perennials are definitely the answer. If you have a hot sunny border then lavenders will thrive, they come from the Mediterranean so they like sharp drainage and lots of sunshine.
If your soil is fertile and reliably moist, try monarda, these bee friendly plants like sunshine too but they need more moisture than lavender.
Bees and other pollinators love penstemon and campanulas too. Those bell flowers are packed with nectar and the plants will thrive in most good garden soils.
Achilleas are tolerant of a wide range of soils and sites but they really come into their own in sunny borders, mix them with other perennials such as coreopsis and salvias for a brilliant summer display that comes back every year. These plants were everywhere at Chelsea and Gardeners’ World Live, giving the show gardens real sparkle.

 

 

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