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Garden Expert: Soaking up the sun

Whether you’re going on holiday or enjoying some long-awaited summer sun at home, Eliza Nicholas urges gardeners to make sure their plants are provided for during sultry July

July often feels like the height of summer and the holiday season. For me, a day spent in the garden enjoying glorious sunshine is as much of a holiday as an exotic beach break, with the bonus of being able to tend to plants and complete jobs around the garden.

For those who are jetting off, it’s important that plants aren’t going to wither and die in your absence. Always remember to ask a friendly neighbour to water where possible, or invest in a slow-release watering system. You can also get watering devices especially for pots, which drip-feed your plants across a few days.

Although there’s an increasing number of solutions, always be sure to test new gadgets or homemade devices before you leave the country to avoid any nasty surprises when you return

If you’re growing edibles this season, you are quite literally beginning to see the fruits of your labour. Depending on how early your crops were started, it’s likely that harvesting has begun. Trusses of tomatoes, cucumbers, beans,

shallots, courgettes and much more can be picked now and turned into delicious alfresco suppers and rainbow salads. Some can be broken off by hand, whereas others require a sharp knife or specific technique.

If you’re not sure on exactly how to harvest something, always double-check online or in a growing guide to avoid damaging the plant or preventing it from making more produce. If you’re lucky enough to have fruit trees or grow tropical fruits in a greenhouse, you may see that many varieties are ready to harvest. Get creative with this season’s berries and soft fruits, using them in salad recipes, cordials and cocktails. Creating your own labels for recycled bottles gives a fun touch to your homemade beverages, which can be given as gifts or enjoyed at parties.

As much as we love the warm weather, it can also bring unwanted pests. Greenhouses can be an inviting environment for insects such as greenfly and mealybugs, so make a habit of doing regular checks underneath leaves and between pots to eradicate any intruders and make sure they don’t multiply.

Most gardeners will also be battling slugs and snails, so experiment with different protection and prevention methods to give your plants the best chance of surviving.

Keep flowering plants healthy and looking their best with regular watering, feeding and deadheading where necessary.

Cutting back tired foliage can give them a new lease of life and prolong flowering. If you like to take cuttings of your plants to grow on next year, now is a good time to do this.

Whether you’re going away on holiday this summer or finally spending some time in your garden, make sure plants are provided for to get them through one of the hottest months of the year.

With July being such a productive month, it’s a great time to enjoy harvests and colourful blooms. We waited long enough for summer this year, and I for one will be making the most of it…

ELIZA NICHOLAS is a garden writer and blogger, passionate about growing everything from food to flowers and encouraging people to enjoy the magic of gardening and the benefits it brings. Eliza's blog, The Garden Fairy, can be found online: (https://thegardenfairyblog. wordpress.com/) and on Instagram via (@the.garden.fairy).

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