What to do
Travelling the country from east to west earlier this summer, I was struck by the parched state of gardens everywhere. Newspaper photographs of Hyde Park showed it with the dusty, cream-coloured finish of the African veld. The rain that came in late July has a long way to penetrate before it makes up the loss.
Many of the traditional summer jobs such as planting out broccoli and other greens were difficult to carry out in the baking hot days last month. Now the plants are likely to be of a size where the move is now or never. It had better be now.
Baby beet, French beans, carrots and courgettes all need harvesting regularly. All are better young than mature. Globe artichokes planted as slips this May should be cropping well now. They do not seem to mind the drought.
Deadhead flowers frequently. This will stop them wasting energy and moisture on producing seed. Dead-heading petunias is an unpleasantly sticky task, cleaning up violas far more pleasing.
Nasturtiums may need more than dead-heading. Blackfly have been abundant. Wash them off with a hard squirt from a water hose.
Hedge trimming time is looming: beech, holly and yew can all be tackled now. An ideal hedge is wider at the bottom than at the top. This lets light get to the lower leaves and keeps bottom growth vigorous.
What to see
Gardens gallop into August with dahlias, cannas, rudbeckias and swathes of waving grasses. See them (accompanied by jazz) in the garden at Butlers Farmhouse, Butlers Lane, Herstmonceux, Sussex BN27 1QH (01323 833770), today and tomorrow, admission £4. Also opening tomorrow are four gardens in Alexandra Park Gardens, London N22 7BG (Nos 272, 279, 289 & 300); the exuberant displays in front are a particular delight; teas at No 272; combined admission £3.50. In Yorkshire, head for Chris and Polly Myers' grassy garden at Mansion Cottage, 8 Gillus Lane, Bampton YO15 1HW (01262 851404), today and tomorrow, admission £3