July is one of the coldest months of the year and there is not much plant growth (weeds seem to be the exception) so much of the activity in the garden involves pruning, general clean up and maintenance.

There are pruning demonstrations to be held on Saturday 4 and 11 July which will help to show the best way to prune your trees, shrubs and fruit trees.

When preparing to prune it is important that the tools to be used are suitable for the task ahead. Tools must be clean, sharp and capable of cutting the size of the branch to be removed. I like to use good quality secateurs, loppers and pruning saws as I find that they stay sharp, keep clean for longer and do not wear out quickly (most of my pruning tools I have had for over 20 years). After use always clean the tools as any plant sap left on them will eat into the blades and they will not last very long.

Winter is a good time to clean all gardening tools to protect them from rust and repair any broken handles etc. so that they are all ready for the season ahead. After the last cutting of the lawn send the mower in for a service and if needed sharpen or replace blades so you are ready for Spring. Do not cut the lawns too low and try not to walk on very wet or frozen grass. Clean up the last of the leaves and put pea straw or a coarse mulch down around the more tender plants to protect the crown of the plant from hard frosts.

Roses, fruit trees and other deciduous plants which are bare rooted are now available for planting, many of these are sold in planter plastic bags with bark around the roots, but do not leave in the bags. Remove them and plant as soon as possible so that they will settle into the ground before Spring growth. Choose well-shaped strong plants that have a good root ball in relation to the plant size.

If you have a glass or tunnel house and are able to give some bottom heat then some seeds can be sown although as the days are still short seedlings are slow and damping off can be a problem.

Many of the Winter and Spring bulbs are coming through the ground now so keep the weeds away to reduce competition and encourage growth.

The usual Winter spray programme on fruit trees, roses and ornamentals should be done on fine sunny days.