Dead-Heading and other summer jobs in your garden

In theory any work you do in your garden now is of the enjoyable type.

You should be harvesting produce from your vegetable patch and from your greenhouse, if you have one. Tomatoes and Cucumbers are at their most abundant and need picking as soon as they are ready so that the plant puts its energy into ripening the rest of the crop. My melons are now growing well but are not yet ripe. You will know when melons are ripe – you will smell them as soon as you enter the greenhouse. Otherwise, feel the top of the melon, it goes slightly softer when it is ready.

One of the jobs you should be doing regularly is dead-heading your flowers. That means cutting off the flower heads which are finished. I find this a gentle and enjoyable job. Out in the sunshine, surrounded by the birds and the insects going about their work pollinating your plants.

When dead-heading, there are a few rules you should be aware of. Don’t just snap off the dead flower head. Particularly with roses, but with all flowers, you should cut the stem back to a sensible leaf. This will make the plant produce another stem hoilding another flower. The point of dead-heading is to make the pplant put on another batch of flowers.

Even flowers such as Lupins, Canterbury Bells and Sweet William will sometimes reward you with a second crop of flowers if you dead-head. The technique here is slightly different as you cut the plant back almost to the ground. Leave a few leaves, they need them to make energy to grow again. Your second flowers will not be as large as the first, but they will be there.

When dead-heading, always use secateurs which are sharp and clean. There are two types of secateur – the Anvil type and the Parrot-bill type. They are both equally good at their job and it is really up to you which type you prefer. Remember that they are meant to cut small branches. If you are using them to prune, never try to cut wood which is too large for them. You will damage the secatears as well as the branch you are cutting.For larger branches, you need long handled pruners or even a pruning saw. The other thing to remember is that if you are cutting back dead or diseased wood , then you should be sure to steralise you secatears before you move on to another bramnch, otherwise you risk spreading deseases around.

Anyway. back to summer jobs, one of the most important things is to sit and enjoy. It will give you a good reason to start the whole process again next spring and will renew you energy levels for the work ahead to prepare your garden for winter. You can also take the time to look at your garden and decide what wants changing or moving and where you need to put in new plants. Most importantly though is to sit back and enjoy.

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