Gardening advice: Three common problems you need to keep on top of in summer

Aphids on broad beans

THE warm weather brings its own set of problems to the summer gardener. Here's how to keep three of the most common and persistent of them in check:

1. Aphid attack: Greenfly, whitefly and blackfly can do their worst in summer, sucking life out of plants. Heavy infestations stunt growth and soil plants with sticky excrement, resulting in sooty mould. Insect spray may zap them, but can also affect beneficial insects. Among the most effective organic ways is to spray them with a dilution of mild washing-up liquid and then run your fingers up and down stems and buds to squash them. Another way is to attract beneficial insects to your garden including lacewings and hoverflies. Try to incorporate a variety of pollen-rich plants in your garden to attract a wide range of natural predators.

2. Black spot on roses: Many roses will have succumbed to black spot this year, particularly those which have not been watered or fed enough in the heat. Roses are hungry feeders and will end up the victim of pests and diseases if their resilience is reduced through lack of care. Telltale dark brown or black blotches, often edged with yellow, appear on the plant from early summer, which can lead to the leaves falling prematurely. Pick off and dispose of diseased leaves. Black spot is thought to be encouraged by potash shortage and warm, wet weather. Feed roses with a high potash fertiliser. Only spray with a fungicide as a last resort.

3. Wilting hanging baskets: During prolonged hot, dry weather, hanging baskets are often the first to suffer as the compost quickly dries out. Water baskets twice a day in summer – in the early morning and when the sun has gone down. If the compost has dried out to the extent where the water going in comes straight through the basket, take down the basket and dunk it into a bucket of water. Once the compost is really wet again, add a couple of handfuls of new compost and some plant food granules to the surface, water again and rehang. Try giving wilted plants a trim if they look like they can be saved, to help renew their energy – and deadhead and feed regularly.

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