Robin Mercer owner of Hillmount garden lifestyle centres in Ards, Bangor and Belfast shares his top gardening tips for the summer season.
Now we’re enjoying the summer the forecasters promised there’s no excuse for spending some quality time in the garden but you’ll need to roll your sleeves up before you sit back and admire the view from your sun lounger.
Caring for Roses Rose Week celebrations in Belfast are still a couple of weeks away but you should be giving your roses some tender loving care now. Spray them regularly with a fungicide and insecticide against rose rust, black spot, mildew and greenfly. Only spray them in the cool of the evening and not when the sun is out. Remember to water them during dry spells and dead head as necessary. Following the first feed on St Patrick’s Day, don’t forget to feed a second time at the end of July.
Garden Furniture Now’s the time we notice our garden furniture looking tired from last summer so if you are restoring a wooden bench, wash it down with soapy water then give it a light sanding. Make sure not to put too much oil on as it will turn the wood black. It is best to put the oil into a hand sprayer and spray onto the wood before wiping with a cloth. I would recommend giving it a light coating of oil every year.
Storm Hector With the arrival of Storm Hector recently a lot of plants were damaged. Now the windy weather has gone it would be worth taking a few minutes to walk around your garden and check any tying on trees and plants to make sure the bark is not being damaged. If they’ve fallen over, herbaceous plants can be carefully propped up again using connected wire hoops.
Strawberries More and more people are growing their own blueberries and strawberries for their smoothies, milkshakes and, with Wimbledon upon us, for enjoying with cream. Your strawberries should be starting to colour now so make sure you keep the plants moist and protect with a fruit net. All fruit should be protected if possible so for the taller fruit make a fruit cage or buy one from your local garden centre.
Orchids Indoor plants enable us to enjoy colour all year round no matter what the weather is doing outside. Orchids are not as delicate as you would think and they should be kept in a cool room at this time of year and watered once a week. To water an orchid plunge the pot into a bucket of water and out again, then the next week repeat the process of plunging the pot in and out of a bucket but with orchid fertiliser and repeat this alternate treatmentwith water and orchid fertiliser until the flowers have nearly finished. When there is one head left, prune down to the next bud as, if you let it all die, it will go down to the pot and you will need to wait a long time for the next flowers. If it is a cymbidium orchid, leave it outside in a sheltered place for a month and this will help it to flower better.
Growing Tomato Plants With the right care, you could be enjoying tomatoes through to autumn. Make sure to keep the windows and doors of your greenhouse open day and night in this weather to keep your tomato plants cool. They will need regular water as they are thirsty plants. Keep removing the side shoots and take up to about 6 trusses of fruit and then stop. Feed regularly with a tomato feed and use canes to support their growth. You can paint coolglass greenhouse shading on the outside of your greenhouse so that when the sun is out additional shading is provided and when it rains, more light can come in.
Bamboo Plants If you’re aspiring to give your garden an exotic touch, bamboo plants are great for achieving that Asian feel. There are a range of varieties and colours available to tone with your patio or garden furniture. I would advise you to plant them in pots rather than directly into the ground as they spread widely and can be difficult to remove in the future.
Ponds and Water Features As well as plants, shrubs, trees and flowers, water features are a great addition to any garden and they add a lovely sound while you’re sitting back and relaxing on a summer’s evening. If you have the space to incorporate a pond into your garden be mindful of evaporation. Some people have said to me that think they have a leak but it’s just the water evaporating. Keep an eye on your fish and try and feed them at same time each day. Watch out for herons and protect your fish with a net!
Griselinia Hedging Griselinia hedges should be cut this month to ensure the wounds are healed before the winter sets in. Always cut hedges in a taper to stop snow lying on top.
Weeds They are growing fast and furious these days. One particularly terrible weed is the mares tail and this is the best time of year to keep it under control. It is growing soft at the moment so it is best to crunch the foliage to expose a wound and then spray with SBK weed killer which you can find online or at your local garden centre. Always wear gloves when using weed killers and, if using a watering can, to spray it onto your weeds, use a red one for weed killers so you don’t mix it up and fill it with water afterwards or you could lose your plants!
Moving Plants Do not move shrubs or trees around the garden now. Wait until autumn. A few people have asked me how to transfer a sentimental plant from a house they are selling. I tell them that when selling their home they should mark any plants they want to take with them with a ribbon and go back in winter and transplant them. Summer is not the time for moving or removing plants.
Bon Voyage If you are going on holiday, don’t forget about your hanging baskets, pots and borders or they will not be flowering when you return. Ask your neighbour or friends to take your containers to water them while you’re away or ask them to call in and water them in your garden. You can also buy time clocks with drip hoses or for newly planted borders you can use a soaker hose. If you only have a couple of plants that need looking after while you are away, you could punch a hole in a lemonade bottle and let it drip into the container. Use two if it is a larger container.
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