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The Independent Online
Travelling the country from east to west this week, I was struck by the dire state of trees and gardens in the light soil of East Anglia. Beeches and birches are already losing their leaves and the lawns have the dusty, cream-coloured finish of the African veld.

At the risk of becoming a mulch bore, it has to be said that mulching heavily after watering is the best way to retain moisture in the soil. Over the seasons, the mulch will break down to make the soil itself more moisture-retentive.

Many of the traditional summer jobs, such as planting out broccoli and other greens, have been difficult to carry out in the drought. My plants are still sitting where they were sown - not a good example. I have been hoping for damp weather to cover the move, and they are of a size where that move is now or never. It had better be now. I cannot bear the thought of spring without broccoli.

Baby beet, French beans, carrots and courgettes all need harvesting regularly. All are better young than mature. Globe artichokes (pictured right) planted as slips this May should be cropping well now. They do not seem to mind the drought.

Dead-head flowers frequently. This will stop them wasting energy and moisture on producing seed. Dead-heading petunias is an unpleasantly sticky task, cleaning up violas is far more pleasing. Nasturtiums may need more than dead-heading. Blackfly have been abundant and their predators are obviously stretched out on deckchairs rather than gobbling up pests. Try a squirt from a Bug Gun (ICI), an insecticide based on pyrethrum.

Hedge-trimming time is looming up: beech, holly and yew can all be tackled over the next month. An ideal hedge is wider at the bottom than at the top. This lets light get to the lower leaves and keeps the lower growth vigorous.