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July Gardening – Sue McDougall

Soaking rains throughout June have ensured that the soil is now damp through to the plant’s root zone and not just on the surface. Many mature trees were damaged from the storms and this is due to them having a compromised, weakened root system. Soaking rains are what is needed to replenish the ground water and help these large trees get through another summer so the more rain the better this month and fingers crossed that it will be above average for July.

In my vegetable garden, recent work revealed that some spots were still bone dry despite the large amounts of compost and manure that has been added to the garden over the years.

The Ornamental Garden

The application of a wetting agent in suspected dry areas is the number one job this month. Water needs to soak into the soil and not run off. To capture as much of the rain as possible, remove unwanted paving areas then plant ground covers and slope lawn areas back to the garden beds to encourage the water to stay a while so that it has a chance to soak in.

It’s rose pruning month; try not to become too stressed over this job. Remember it’s nearly impossible to kill a rose from incorrect pruning techniques. As a general guide prune about two-thirds of the foliage and stems, remove any diseased and dead wood that is left on the bush and clear the crown area of leaf litter and soil. Apply lime sulfur as a winter spray to clean up any fungal spores and insects over wintering. If the weather warms up quickly and roses start to shoot, use pest oil as a substitute since lime sulfur can burn new foliage.

Retaining water shoots on roses is important so don’t be tempted to remove these. Water shoots are the strong new canes that appear from the base of the plant (as opposed to root stock, which appear below the graft and which has distinctively different foliage) and will form the structure of the shrub over the next few years. Apply blood and bone with potash to increase the plant’s resistance to black spot and powdery mildew in spring.

Control winter weeds on a fine sunny day.  Spraying them when they are small will save many litres of chemical and hours of work in spring.

Cover frangipani and other sub tropical trees if you live in a frost prone area and protect young plants from strong winds by staking them or creating a protective barrier with shade cloth.

Plants that have been damaged in the storm may look worse before they look better. Extremely high winds can do damage to a shrub or tree that isn’t immediately obvious. Apply Seasol to the foliage and around the root system at the beginning of the month and again in August. Remove any damaged branches if they are deemed to be unsafe.

The Edible Garden

Its time to plant another crop of potatoes remembering to protect them from the frosty mornings we often experience this month.

Sow leeks from seed. They can either be sown in situ or in a seed raising tray. A tip when planting out is to plant in clumps until they get slightly larger and will cope with being divided. Leeks are a rewarding long term crop and are very easy to grow.

Lightly prune citrus varieties that have finished fruiting if needed. Citrus only require pruning to shape and will reward you with kilograms of fresh juicy fruit over many years. Citrus will continue to sweeten if left on the tree weeks after they have turned orange, so if you have slightly tart fruit leave them hanging for a few more weeks. You will be amazed at the difference in flavour.


Written by Sue McDougall, a qualified horticulturalist and experienced garden centre owner who grew up in the WA wheatbelt and has had experience in gardening throughout the entire state.  You may know Sue as the garden expert on 6PR radio and by her many TV appearances.

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