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In most parts of the country July is traditionally the time to prune and to plant out new roses, deciduous fruit trees and grape vines. Pruning is best done in late winter because the plants sap flow is low and therefore the risk of infection and transplant shock is at its lowest. In temperate regions pruning generally gets under way from the middle of July; in very cold regions delay pruning until the middle of August. In the winter rainfall regions pruning starts from the end of July to August; and in warm subtropical regions you can prune from June to early August.
Correct pruning will rejuvenate old plants; produce fruit laden trees; and well-shaped shrubs and roses that flower well. Winter is also a good time to prune deciduous shrubs and trees; but do not prune plants which flower in late winter, spring and early summer; these can be pruned when they have finished blooming. If you did not prune your hydrangeas in April you can do so from mid to late July. They need to be pruned down to a good, fat bud and all the old, dead wood needs to be cut right down to the ground.
Ensure that all your pruners are sharp and always make clean cuts as ragged cuts are subject to infection. You will need secateurs to prune small branches and loppers for bigger branches; a garden saw will also come in handy for large branches. Large branches should be sealed with a tree seal. A good pair of gloves will save your hands; and if you are doing a winter spray, ensure that your sprayer has good pressure.
If you have a shredder, shred everything except diseased plant material and add it to your compost heap, If you have not investing in a shredder yet, try to do so – it will save you a mint in the long run on purchasing compost.
transplant roses that are growing in the wrong position; as well as deciduous shrubs or trees. It is a good time to transplant Cycads and Cycas; remove any cones from your plant before transplanting and ensure that the new site has good, well-drained soil, adding some river sand to the new planting hole if the drainage is not good. Do not overwater until the rainy season starts; in the winter rainfall regions it may be better to wait until spring or early summer to transplant cycads unless your soil drains very well. If you did not transplant conifers growing in the wrong place last month and lightly prune existing ones, you can still do so now. Read last months article.
Do not prune frost bitten evergreen shrubs now, rather wait until the weather warms and there is no danger of late frosts. When you do prune, remove all green branches from variegated shrubs right at their base, or the stronger growing green shoots will quickly overtake the variegated ones. Also, remember, do not prune your spring and early summer flowering evergreen shrubs and climbers until they have finished blooming.
Continue to care for your lawn as detailed in last months article.
flowering seedlings and bulbs regularly and feed with organic 3:1:5; nip out the dead flowers often to prolong blooming. Sweet peas should be growing vigorously and need to be fed with a liquid fertiliser that is high in potassium every 2 weeks until they have finished blooming. If parts of your garden look a bit dreary, why not visit your local garden centre to select your favourite instant colour seedlings to transform those drab areas, not forgetting your baskets and pots. In the warmer parts of this region which experience cold nights but little or no frost, plant out petunias and verbenas because they flourish during the dry season, and as soon as the rainy season starts they become prone to fungal diseases, so put them on your list to plant next season, or plant out established plants now. Also, try some Iceland poppies, pansies, violas, alyssum, calendulas and primroses and primulas, to name but a few; but remember that when the weather warms up in early summer most of these plants will need to be replaced with fresh summer varieties.Water your winter and spring
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If you did have not lifted and divided your dormant summer flowering bulbs yet you can do so now. Store the harvested bulbs in dry sawdust or vermiculite and in a cool, dark, dry place. If you plan on leaving them in the soil, mark the position where they are planted to avoid damage while they are dormant. They can be planted out again in spring once all danger of frost is over.
Plan a water-wise garden for summer by grouping your plants according to their watering needs, and consider getting rid of some of your lawn - lawns are real water guzzlers and should be kept to a minimum if you wish to conserve water. There are so many water-wise plants, both exotic and indigenous, that there is no reason why you cannot achieve a beautiful and colourful summer garden using these plants. (Read more in our Handy Articles Section)
In dry regions moisten your compost heap occasionally, and in the winter rainfall regions you may need to cover the heap with a plastic sail to prevent it from getting too wet.
Place bowls filled with water near to your indoor pot plants to increase humidity in heated rooms. Floating a few flowers on the water looks so pretty. Always water your potted plants with warm, not freezing cold water in winter and protect them from cold draughts. Popular flowering indoor plants for winter include the ever popular Alpine Violet (Cyclamen) and the Common Primrose (Primula acaulis).
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Attract birds to your garden in winter by feeding them and providing water, and hopefully they will remain through spring and summer; consuming vast quantities of insects and thus reducing the need to spray. Also, don’t forget to plant some plants which will provide them with food in winter. Read more in our Handy Articles Section.
vegetables and herbs. Stake winter vegetables that may need some support; like broad beans, Brussels sprouts and broccoli. Nip out the growing tips of broad beans to promote pod set and to prevent aphid infestations. Pick your peas while they are still young and tender. Divide and replant large clumps of rhubarb at the end of July. In frost-free regions continue sowing green beans, pumpkins, marrows, squashes, melons and cucumbers. In cold regions summer veggies can be started if you have a greenhouse.Start preparing beds for spring plantings of
Seed potatoes become available this month for planting out in August and September; and harvesting in December, or earlier for new potatoes. If space is limited, grow them in potato sacks or dustbins.
Asparagus crowns can also be divided in winter when they are dormant; dig a trench with a built-up ridge of soil in the middle on which to place the divided crowns, about 30cm apart; fill the trench with good compost and firm down well before watering. If you can’t find crowns seed can be sown now, keep the trays in a protected warm place until they germinate.
Globe Artichokes can be propagated from suckers cut from the base of the plant with a sharp knife, leaving part of the root attached. In cold regions suckers are planted out in late winter; plant only strong healthy suckers about 25cm long, spacing them about 60cm apart.
Jerusalem artichoke tubers can be lifted and divided in late winter or early spring. Select only good quality tubers at least 4cm in diameter with at least 2 eyes or buds. Large tubers can be cut into pieces as long as they have two eyes. Plant the tubers about 50cm apart. Seeds can also be sown into trays in late winter for planting out in summer.
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Fruit: Citrus trees and avocados are bearing and do need some attention at this time of the year. Water them regularly and deeply, and when you have finished harvesting, mulch the trees with compost and feed with 3:1:5, but keep both well away from the trunk of the tree. Ripe lemons last long on the tree and can be harvested as required, but limes start to deteriorate on the tree and are better if they are harvested right away. Spray thoroughly with Oleum if red scale insects are noticed on the stems. Almonds that are starting to bloom and should be fed with 6:1:5 or similar organic fertiliser. Use about 100 grams for young trees and about 200 grams for mature trees, watering it in well afterwards. Mangoes must also be fed once the flower trusses emerge. The long side branches of granadillas can be cut back now if they were not pruned in February; this will promote new side shoots. In the winter rainfall regions strawberries are planted out now.
Winter rainfall regions (Mediterranean)
Check that beds under the eaves of the house and in the shadow of hedges or trees, as well as plants growing on the south side of walls are receiving sufficient water. Dust gypsum onto heavy clay soils and allow the rain to wash it into the soil. Move your potted succulents and cacti out of the rain and ensure that the drainage holes in your outdoor pots are not blocked. Buffalo lawns are dormant but Kikuyu lawns still need to be mowed about every two weeks.
Snails dislike parsley and the hairy leaves of comfrey will help to deter them. Place wet paper or cabbage leaves, face down around endangered plants in the morning and collect the snails that are sheltering there in the evening. Collect eggshells to place around vulnerable plants as snails and slugs hate rough surfaces. Run a coarse gravel pathway around the vegetable patch, inter-planted with herbs. If ants are invading your garden try this homemade spray. Boil lots of fresh chillies, garlic and onions together in plenty of water for a while and then let the concoction steep for a couple of days before straining and adding some dishwashing liquid. The liquid can be poured down the ant nests.
In these regions strawberries are planted out now. If you do have a sheltered spot, make a final planting of peas, but leave most of your seed sowing until next month unless you are sowing into trays and have a warm, well-drained and protected spot to keep them. If you do have a sheltered spot, you can sow seeds of beetroot, Brussels’ sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, endive, leek, lettuce, onion, parsley, parsnip, radish, spinach turnips and tomatoes.
Subtropical summer rainfall regions
Do a thorough check of your entire garden regularly for white ants, especially your tree ferns, and treat immediately. Re-pot any indoor pot plants that have outgrown their pots, ensuring that you use a good potting soil. Take cuttings of Bougainvillea and Hibiscus, and propagate Frangipani by planting out truncheons into pots filled with very well-drained soil; do not overwater. If your clumps of bromeliads are overcrowded, dig them up and carefully split them, re-planting only young healthy plants into fertile well-drained soil. Water your azaleas and camellias deeply and regularly, never allowing the soil to dry out completely; or the flower buds will fall off. The Purple wreath will be blooming soon, so if you don’t have this beautiful plant in your garden, why not plant one now. July is also an excellent time to make structural changes to your garden like levelling or laying new pathways, repairing walls and varnishing woodwork. Consider installing rainwater tanks, these will pay for themselves within a few years.
July is a good time to prune late summer flowering shrubs and climbers and to cut away dead wood from ornamental trees and shrubs. Prune bougainvilleas that are growing in pots when they have finished flowering, then feed with superphosphate or bone meal and a high nitrogen feeder. When your plant is growing vigorously again, reduce watering and feed with a fertiliser like 3:1:5 to promote flowering. If your Hibiscus is not performing well, try cutting it back ruthlessly (about 60cm from the ground). Prune out all the dead wood, mulch generously with compost and feed with organic 3:1:5, watering it in well. Feeding hibiscus in summer with high nitrogen feeders may cause the buds to drop. Take cuttings of frangipani trees by planting truncheons (stout cuttings from branches). Plant into a very sandy mix and keep them fairly dry at first.
At the end of July, prepare your lawn for summer, by firstly mowing it very short, then raking out the dead mat with a steel rake. Apply agricultural lime at about 200g per square meter and water it in well. Weeds thrive on acid soils and lime sweetens the soil and therefore discourages weed growth.
It is time to prepare trenches for sweet peas; they require very rich, well-drained soil. Soak the seeds overnight before sowing. You can also sow and plant salvia, scadoxus, eucomis, asters, phlox, dianthus, calendula, lobelia, snapdragon, alyssum, delphinium and pansies.
Make your first plantings of mealies and sweet corn and continue to plant out beans, beetroot, chillies, eggplants, tomatoes, peppers, parsnips, squashes, pumpkins, cucumbers, carrots, lettuce, Swiss chard and melons. Make a final sowing of beetroot.
Summer rainfall (Temperate or Highveld Regions)
Bend the brown leaves on your tree ferns upwards and tie a few together with string, this will protect the tender crown of new leaves in the centre of your plant. Ensure that your standard roses, trees etc are securely staked, before the August winds arrive. Get out your stepladder and clear out the gutters and prune away any rampant creepers from your roof. In these regions it is an excellent time to make structural changes to your garden like levelling or laying new pathways, repairing walls and varnishing woodwork. Rainwater tanks will pay for themselves within a few years and are essential in regions prone to drought. Weeds will in show up well on frosted lawns, so remove them by hand immediately.
Continue to water in the morning, to allow the soil to drain and the plants to dry off before nightfall. Never allow your azaleas and camellias to dry out totally or the flower buds will fall off. Visit your local garden centre to select winter flowering shrubs and groundcovers while they are in bloom, not forgetting the beautiful Lenten Rose (Helleborus). Lavenders excel during the drier parts of the year and winter is a great time to select flowering cultivars for your garden.
Virginian stocks can still be sown directly into garden beds; and because phlox, candytuft, alyssum, columbine and larkspur have cold germination tolerance, they can also be sown now. It is too cold to sow summer annuals unless you have heated germination trays, but the nurseries are usually brimming with ‘instant colour’ seedlings just starting to bloom, which can be planted out now. Most of them will be winter flowering annuals that will go off when the weather gets too hot in summer. In the warmer parts of this region which experience cold nights but little or no frost, plant out petunias and verbenas because they flourish during the dry season, and as soon as the rainy season starts they become prone to fungal diseases, so put them on your list to plant next season, or plant out established plants now.
In very cold regions peas are sown this month, this ensures that they bloom when the weather has warmed up considerably, but is not yet too hot; sowing can be extended to early September. You can still sow onions, and early sowings of broccoli and cabbage can be harvested this month. In warmer regions like Pretoria lettuce, parsnips, radishes and turnips can still be sown. Thin out your carrots if necessary, this will allow the remaining ones to reach a good size. In warmer regions you can continue to sow lettuce, Swiss chard, tomatoes and turnips.
Dry, semi-arid and continental regions
Weeds show up well against frost bitten lawns, so spend time digging them out now. Ensure that your standard roses, trees etc. are securely staked, before the August winds arrive. Bend the brown leaves on your tree ferns upwards and tie a few together with string, this will protect the tender crown of new leaves in the centre of your plant. Get out your stepladder and clear out your gutters. In these regions it is an excellent time to make structural changes to your garden like levelling or laying new pathways, repairing walls and varnishing woodwork. Rainwater tanks will pay for themselves within a few years and are essential in regions with brak water and those prone to drought. Visit your local garden centre to select winter flowering shrubs, trees and groundcovers while they are still in bloom, not forgetting the beautiful Lenten Rose (Helleborus). Lavenders excel during the drier parts of the year and winter is a great time to select flowering cultivars for your garden.
Continue to water in the morning, to allow the soil to drain and the plants to dry off before nightfall. Never allow your azaleas and camellias to dry out totally or the flower buds will fall off. Take hardwood cuttings now of your favourite hardy plants like Spiraea, flowering quinces and pomegranates. It is still too cold to sow summer annuals unless you have heated germination trays but because phlox, candytuft alyssum, columbine and larkspur have cold germination tolerance, they can also be sown now. The nurseries are usually brimming with ‘instant colour’ seedlings just starting to bloom, which can still be planted out now. Most of them will be winter flowering annuals that will go off when the weather gets too hot in summer.
In very cold regions peas are sown in July and August as this ensures that they bloom when the weather has warmed up considerably, but is not yet too hot for them. You can also still sow onions and Swiss chard. Broccoli and cabbages can be harvested this month. Thin out your carrots if necessary, this will allow the remaining ones to reach a good size.