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Summer gardening tips with Hever Castle head gardener Neil Miller

Wow it’s been a changeable month! Everything is growing well in the garden now, but we’ve experienced lower temperatures than last year.

At one point this month, I was a bit worried that the rain was going to batter my 4,000 roses before we had a chance to show them off at Hever in Bloom, but then Mother Nature threw her arms around us and everything looked lovely.

It's felt a bit non-stop in the garden since May. We've run from one job to another. We've had adventures too though. Earlier in the summer, two of my team accompanied me on a week-long horticultural expedition to build a self-sufficiency culinary garden for a girls’ school in Marrakech.

Working in the heat of Marrakech
Working in the heat of Marrakech

The project was put together by REEP (Religious Educational & Environment Programme) an organisation that aims to educate by creating spaces where children can learn about the environment.

We worked together to create a living classroom for the girls at the school so that they could learn how to grow their own herbs and food. This is something we can do wherever we are - we can do

it here in Kent in the Garden of England for sure.

We conformed to a fairly simple plan, building planters and filling them with earth then planting edible seeds. If you add water and sunshine, they will grow!

The garden at the school in Marrakech already had a fantastic collection of mature palm trees, olives, bananas and pomegranates, but REEP wanted us to create somewhere that the girls could

grow oregano, aubergines, chillies, carrots, beans, etc and plants that can be harvested quickly by the girls and used in the kitchen there.

Planters were built from brick for the girls to use
Planters were built from brick for the girls to use

It was hard work in the 40 degree heat to create planters, made from brick but we managed to find shade in the garden to cool off.

I must say, the girls at the school interacted well with the team. Horticulture isn’t currently high on the curriculum in Morocco, so it was fantastic to see the girls getting involved and learning where food comes from, how we grow it and what we can do with it!

We hope to return to the school in September to view the fruits of our labours (quite literally) and to work on phase two of the project.

It was a wonderful project to be a part of and it was good to work in conditions that we don’t normally experience in Kent.

Meanwhile work has been continuing at Hever
Meanwhile work has been continuing at Hever

Back in the garden at home and the dahlias went in a couple of weeks ago. The team, under the direction of Darren (our dahlia expert) are making sure the plants are fed and watered so they grow

and produce fantastic blooms in late summer.

Dead-heading has been underway for a couple of weeks now and it’s a full time job keeping on top of thousands of roses on the Estate, but there are annuals to deadhead too along the 1/8th mile

Pompeiian Wall and perennials to dead head in the long border. If you are growing salvias, make sure you give them the ‘Hampton Hack’ (a term coined by Kent salvia specialist William Dyson) to pro-long the flowering season. Cut the flower spikes back - just a quick haircut - and the salvias will reward you with flowers until October.

If you are growing annuals in pots and troughs, make sure you deadhead daily, water daily and feed once a month, so that the colour persists through until autumn.

Neil has shared his summer to-do list for gardeners
Neil has shared his summer to-do list for gardeners

Keep your greenhouse well ventilated on warm days. If you have lots of house plants, now is a good time to take them outside and give them a good clean with the hose.

In drier weather, make sure you check on your pond and the bird baths and top up if necessary.

We like to try to water in the evening to avoid burning the leaves of the heucheras. If things are looking dry in your gardens at home, then now is a good time to think about adding mulch around

your plants. The only plants you want to see begin to dry at the moment are the lavenders - now is a very good time to cut your lavender spikes and hang them up to dry.

The summer holidays are nearly upon us and we can’t wait to hear the screams of laughter from the water maze - hopefully it won’t be as hot as this time last year and the plants and trees will be

able to enjoy a healthier summer in 2019.

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