Summer Gardening... Keeping it Going in Harder Times

Summer gardening: Gatekeeper butterfly on Fuchsia magellanica
I've learned a pause to enjoy the garden is even more important in harder times,
with this month's Big Butterfly Count forming the perfect excuse to do so.
Gatekeepers (pictured) and Commas are doing well at VP Gardens this year.

It feels like I'm keeping a load of plates spinning in the air owing to lots of family woes (boo hoo) and a longer-than-usual holiday (hurrah) occupying most of my time. My garden and allotment are in danger of suffering badly; thank goodness I've found the following help to keep things going...

In the garden

We've been away a lot and there's not always a friendly neighbour around for watering duties. After all, it's holiday time for them too, so instead I've...

  • Concentrated on bigger pots - a few years ago I counted the pots in my garden and was shocked to find I had 130. Most of them were teeny tiny ones filled with annuals, which I'm gradually replacing with much bigger pots filled with mainly perennials. I'm enjoying the reduced workload (all that repotting!), plus I've found bigger pots usually need less watering.
  • Grouped my pots together - they create their own little microclimate, which in turn cuts down the need for watering.
  • Moved my pots into the shade when I go away, so they dry out less quickly. I've also put my remaining smaller pots into large trays filled with water. This helps to keep them going for longer.
  • Used self-watering pots for my tomatoes as uneven watering tends to lead to problems like blossom end rot. These keep the soil nicely moist and don't need topping up for around 10 days. 
  • Chosen composts carefully - some of my trials with a selection of new peat-free composts on the market show they don't need watering so often. I've found I only need to water every other day with Melcourt's Sylvagrow or Dalefoot compost.
  • Never watered the non-potted parts of the garden, unless plants are suffering badly or I've just planted them. This encourages plants to put down deeper roots which in turn helps them resist drier periods in the garden. It helps I have a moisture retentive clay soil too. 

On the allotment

I've managed to mulch about a third of my allotment this year and I've been amazed at how much this cuts down the need for weeding. It's also much easier to get them out, compared to the clay soil elsewhere on the plot.

Mulch also locks in moisture, but I've found the moisture needs to be in the soil in the first place before I apply the mulch, otherwise plants may get stressed if a dry spell ensues. That's why I stopped my mulching duties in April because there wasn't enough ground penetrating rain falling. I need to review the situation after last weekend's deluge though!

You may also like:

  • Cally wrote a guest post for me couple of years ago, packed with holiday watering tips
  • My review of my self-watering pots. Don't have any? Here's a handy guide to making your own (or you can Google DIY self watering pots for lots more ideas)
  • My review of Sylvagrow (plus an insight into Melcourt's facility near Tetbury) - my full review of Dalefoot is still to come
  • A number of my blogging pals recently contributed to a summer gardening guide, packed with fab tips and lots of new blogs to discover
  • Veg Plotting is July's Blog of the Month over at the Turtle Mat blog, with a few more tips (not just for summer!) alongside my blogging story. Welcome to those who've wandered over from there :)

What summer gardening tips do you have? Or perhaps you're taking part in the Big Butterfly Count as well? Tell all in the Comments below...


  1. I keep banging on about using weed control fabric but on the plot it works for us in more ways than just keeping weeds down

    1. I'm not a huge fan of weed control fabric, Sue. There's plenty of couch and bindweed on nearby plots and I've found these can run underneath the fabric and pop up in the middle of the plot. Instead I use a thick layer of wetted newspaper underneath my mulch. Same effect, but when the mulch and paper has rotted down, it's easier to hoik out any errant couch and bindweed runners before re-mulching again.

    2. We always weed well before laying fabric and other on beds in which are planted permanent fruit bushes, the fabric is only in place for a season as we move it around so don't have that problem.

    3. Ah I see - are you moving it around in line with your crop rotation?

  2. Sorry to hear that you are going through some rough patches along with the smooth ((())) Some excellent strategies and tips for keeping the garden and plot going when time is on the short side. It's been a struggle for me this summer. I'm lucky to have a friend who kindly babysits all my seedlings when I'm away from home - they travel to her garden :)

    1. Sorry to hear you're having a woeful summer too, Anna xxx


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