July catches me on the hop every year. One day I'm relaxed, winter stretches ahead, there's heaps of time for gardening. Then I panic, the shortest day has come and gone, there's so much to do, where do I start?
My most important July job is planting. A lot of gardening can safely be done when the mood hits you - prune roses in September instead of August, well, no big deal.
But planting at the correct time makes a massive difference to the life of your plants and the look of your garden. Plants benefit hugely if they go into the ground any time from early autumn to late winter, which in my cool climate garden is between March and July.
Planting at the correct time makes a massive difference to the life of your plants and the look of your garden.
Before March, the ground is too hot and too dry, after July spring looms and plants will try to shoot before their roots are well enough established to support them.
This year, thanks to my grand plan of making the garden more drought proof, I've accumulated a vast mass of new (and, I trust, drought-hardier) plants, some from cuttings, others from mail order nurseries, local garden centres and friends.
My propagation corner soon became a disorganised jungle but I finally confronted it and did what I should have been doing all along, arranged it in categories: shrubs, climbers, perennials, grasses, unknown/forgotten/label missing.
I then nervously counted my plants. Last week, full disclosure, I had 103. Luckily, most pots were 12 centimetres or smaller, so I wrote down the horrifying number and promised myself I'd plant 20 a week for five weeks.
Strangely, my relief after facing up to the issue was so great, in no time I'd planted over twenty plants, including four Raphiolepis 'Cosmic White' in 20cm. pots, and the awful feeling of panic had gone.
I even found time to get into other winter jobs which was just as well, seeing how quickly a season can change.
Asparagus fronds need cutting down in July and the crowns manured. Decayed cow pats or sheep droppings are ideal, or if you're busy and need lots, make liquid manure.
Soak a shovelful of manure in a 9-litre bucket of water for two weeks, drain and dilute one-part liquid to four parts water.
July is compost-spreading time. Shovel mature compost onto garden beds, then turn over half rotted stuff to start a new heap. Compost is the best fertiliser going.
Winter is an ideal time to spread lime or longer-lasting dolomite on acid soil, which most of us have in NSW.
You'll know you need it if you grow hydrangeas and their flowers are blue: pink hydrangeas indicate alkaline soil. (Adding lime miraculously turns blue hydrangeas pink).
Otherwise, buy a testing kit ($15-20 from garden centres) and check. Prune large flowered hybrid clematis and long waving wisteria canes in July by trimming back to two or three buds.
Flowering cyclamen hate heated rooms. Put them somewhere cool every night and their lovely flowers last far longer.
Looking down the track to possible overseas travel, if the Kiwis are game to open their borders to us there's seriously no better country for gardens.