By the time you read this, it will be high summer, a very rewarding time for the gardener but also a very busy time. Vegetables need regular weeding and there is still successional sowing to be done. Two years ago, when writing about July, I said that hopefully, there would be a lot of watering to do, I was wrong, there was not, as we had a pretty wet summer, as we also did in the subsequent year, so far this year, the late spring period has been excessively dry. Keeping up with watering has become a major issue, but it is essential that this is achieved on a regular basis while the dry spell persists.

Bulbs

Other than lilies and gladioli, most bulbous plants will have finished flowering by the middle of July; if you wish you can lift and dry off tulip bulbs. I prefer to leave them in situ, but as I have said before, look out for them when digging around after the foliage is gone, or mark where they are. It is a good time to think about looking at bulb catalogues and ordering new bulbs for autumn planting.

The Greenhouse

In the greenhouse, if you are growing cucumbers remember to shade from the hot sun and if you have melons, support the fruits as they will bulk-up rapidly from now on. Tomatoes will need regular side shoot removal; it is best to avoid “skinning” the sides of the main stems when doing this and to remove the cut off shoots from the greenhouse, as both things can act as a focus for botrytis ( grey mould) in dull warm weather.

Rapid growth of glass-house plants means they need feeding regularly and keep an eye open for pests. White-fly, often imported on bought in plants, can be a particular nuisance; in addition to the damage they do by sucking the plant sap, they also, like aphids, excrete honeydew upon which black sooty mould will grow. White-fly can be caught on yellow sticky traps, rather like the old-fashioned fly-paper, or you can use a predator. These are very specific to white-fly (provided you have the right one, of course). They are available from garden-centres and specialist horticultural suppliers.

Other such predators are available to deal with spider-mites, which thrive in very large numbers on the undersides of leaves in hot dry conditions, giving the upper surface a yellow speckled appearance; they are barely visible without a magnifying glass, but do produce a certain amount of web and this, in addition to the damage, can be a clue to their presence. Neither predator can spread outside the greenhouse, so don’t worry as one customer with a conservatory did, that they might get into the house!

Hedging

If you have a newly planted hedge, it is best not to trim it this year except possibly for nipping the top out to make it thicken up lower down. Mulch it well if conditions are dry. Established hedges are best clipped to a wedge shape, wider at the bottom than at the top.

Annuals and Perennials

Later flowering perennials and annuals will need regular watering and feeding according to instructions on the fertiliser of your choice.

New lawns sown or laid in the spring are old enough now to take a dose of weed-killer if required, but be careful with the dose and don’t apply it in windy conditions when you can get whet the American military refer to as “collateral damage”, i.e.. killing things you didn't intend to kill.

Flowering shrubs

Flowering shrubs that have completed their show for this season can be pruned now; they will flower next year on what grows from now onwards, so don’t leave it too late and definitely don’t cut them with a hedge-trimmer in the autumn or winter as you will cut off the shoots on which they will flower next year!

Lilacs have performed particularly well this year, filling the garden with scent during the recent warm weather. If you wish to get the best display next season, be particularly careful with pruning them; two shoots will grow from the stem, just behind this year’s dead flower, these carry next year’s flower buds and cutting them off will prevent the plant from giving a good display then. Sometimes, of course, if you wish to reduce the size of the bush drastic action may be necessary which may mean you have to forego many flowers for twelve months.

I have often been asked why many lilacs seem to carry two kinds of flowers. This is usually because they have been grafted on to a rootstock of common lilac, which has then been allowed to sucker profusely, as lilacs can and the common lilac mingles with the original named variety. The only way to deal with this is to be vigilant and cut out any growth carrying common lilac flowers, right back to the ground. Some varieties, e.g. “Sensation”, which has highly scented dark purple flowers with a white edge, occasionally produce pale flowered reverted branches; these can be cut out where they join the main stem.

Roses

If you fancy your chance as a rose propagator, now is the month for “budding” roses; cut a T-shaped slit in the bark of the stock and carefully insert a bud, i.e.  a sliver of bark with a new bud, from the rose you wish to propagate; bind up the bark with raffia or similar. That is very simplistic and perhaps if you are really serious about it, consult a specialist book or probably the internet.

Once again I have used up my allotted space without saying a few things that I intended to, but was it not ever thus!