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July

July is the coldest month of the year, and in winter-frost areas, the ground will be covered with frost. But that will not worry the gardener accustomed to cold-winter gardening. The gardener who may be in for an anxious five minutes or so will be the one who lives in the warmer districts, which catch an occasional "snap" frost for all that.

FROST

If the garden does get the stray frost, get up early to assess the extent of damage done. There will be no mistaking any plants, which have been frosted. They'll probably be bent over and looking pretty miserable. Potatoes and beans are likely to be the worst affected. Shrubs and even some tender annuals will not be harmed much, but those soft tops of potatoes and other succulent things are easily damaged. They must now have a light spraying over with cold water. But you must do this early, before the sun gets on them, or thawing will cause the frozen cells of the plant to expand too quickly, and you may lose the plants.

PRUNING FRUIT TREES

The pruning of fruit trees takes precedence over everything this month. There are two reasons to prune. One is to shape the tree, in its early years, by inducing it to develop into a nicely balanced specimen, the branches so spaced that they will make a good framework to carry the fruiting wood. The other reason is to keep the tree free from dead wood, which would prove a harborage for pests, and to remove weak shoots and unwanted wood - branches which may grow into the centre of the tree, keeping out light and air, and branches which may rub against another.

For your pruning operations you will require a good sharp pruning knife, a small pruning saw (choose one with a curved blade for preference), and a pair each of hand secateurs and long-handled pruners or loppers. Before making the first cut, walk round the tree and examine it from all angles. It will then more or less tell you just where a little cutting back and trimming is necessary.

When pruning apples and pears, the idea is to promote production of as large a number of small spurs as possible, since as they grow older these spurs will develop into fruiting wood. Apples and pears fruit on their old wood.

First look for the dead wood and the water shoots. They're no good, so the sooner they are out of the way the better.

Now you will be left with a tree, which has a lot of leading growths made from the ends of the branches last season an perhaps quite a number of lateral shoots, which are probably growing in all directions, some of them on the outer side of the branches and some right into the centre of the tree.

Cut all that centre stuff out first by pruning it hard back to two or three buds from the branch from which it sprang. This will leave a little spur, which is just what you want, for those spurs will develop fruit buds for next season.

Now cut back the other lateral shoots similarly. There will still remain those long leaders, and these can now be cut back to about one-third their length. The final result should be a nicely balanced tree with an open centre.

Now we come to the peaches and nectarines. These fruit on the new wood produced the previous season, so the pruning process is different. This makes pruning very simple since the object is to cut away as much of the old wood as possible and retain all the new wood you can. This means that you follow the same tactics so far as keeping the tree well balanced and open-centred is concerned, and reducing the length of the leaders to reasonable proportions. But there is not the same necessity for hard spurring back, since blossom will be produced at intervals along the length of the new wood. It's easy to distinguish between old wood and new wood. Old wood is weathered and dark; new wood looks fresh and bright. It's also easy to tell the difference between fruit and leaf buds, since leaf buds are slim and pointed and fruit buds are round and chubby.

Apricots, plums and cherries should not be pruned at all, except for the cutting-out of dead wood and possibly the removal of some awkward branch. Cherries may gum or bleed considerably if they are cut about much. These trees bear their fruit on twiggy shoots often produced right along as well as at the tips of the branches so, there really is a danger of cutting next sea-son's fruit away if you prune them at all drastically.

Here are a few more pruning tips:

Be sure all your pruning tools are keenly sharp and clean, and when large wounds are made protect them by painting them over with builders' knotting, lead paint, or sealing compound. Then the wounds will heal over nicely.

Always cut cleanly, just above a good strong bud pointing in the direction in which it is desired the branch should grow.

Gather up the prunings afterwards and burn them, for there are sure to be the eggs of insect pests on them, and when all is done spray them with lime-sulphur.

PRUNING ROSES

Pruning of rose trees follows much the same lines.

Cut out all dead, weakly and badly placed wood, then cut back the remaining stems, to a good outward-pointing bud.

The harder you cut back the more vigorous will be the resultant growth.

Prune a weakly-growing tree severely, to encourage more robust growth, prune a moderately strong-grower more lightly, and just trim back unripe wood and preserve balance in those roses which show a natural tendency to grow strongly.

INDOOR PLANTS

Indoor plants will not require much water now and this should only be given when the surface of the soil really begins to look dry. Most of the foliage plants grown in pots make little growth at this season, which is the resting period. Keep them out of draughts, and clean them. Sponge the leaves over once a week with tepid water, and when you water them at the roots use water of the same temperature as the room.

Primulas, cyclamen and cinerarias, now either in bloom or making their flower buds, will respond well to a little feeding once a week, and these, will require rather more water than the plants which are more or less dormant.

Begonias bloom constantly and you can get varieties with either single or double flowers.
African Violets are great favorites. Be especially careful how you water these, and don't get moisture on the foliage.

Another good flowering plant is the Kalanchoe, whilst geraniums make first-class winter-flowering plants on a sunny windowsill.

WHAT YOU SHOULD BE DOING IN JULY

Mulch over the tops of beds planted with spring-flowering bulbs and see that the soil does not become too dry.

This is pruning time for most ornamental shrubs. All that is normally necessary is to thin out growth somewhat and remove dead wood. When pruning hydrangeas cut back only those shoots which have flowered. Many garden shrubs and hedges, particularly Pyracantha and quince, are host plants to fruit tree pests. When spraying your fruit trees also therefore spray your roses and other ornamental shrubs.

Sort over the stored Gladioli corms and grade them into sizes. The larger ones can be planted in beds and borders for blooming in summer and the smaller cormlets will develop into flower-size corms if grown on for a season somewhere.

Look for the new season's seeds at your local nursery.

If you have a greenhouse a start can now be made with the sowing of seeds of begonias, Streptocarpus and Primula obconica for summer flowering.

In areas where lawns come into growth early it is not too soon to start pre-paring for the new season by thoroughly raking, brushing and spiking the turf.

All stone fruits appreciate plenty of lime in the soil. This may now be scattered over the surface. In winter-rainfall areas take advantage of favorable planting conditions to get in new trees and shrubs and to transplant perennials.

Loosen the soil between winter-flowering bedding plants to break up the crust and conserve moisture.

Order seed potatoes in cold areas and make a further planting for succession in districts where potatoes are a winter crop.

Dig over manure and compost the ground well where it is intended to make an herbaceous or mixed border in spring.

Cacti and succulents will soon be coming into growth again and may have their water supply slightly increased.


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