The garden is fascinating at this time of year. I love the wonderful sound of the birds singing, and I just relish the scents of honeysuckle, roses and other flowers; even the scent of the grass is so relaxing.
If you get time to put your feet up it’s the ideal time to pre-order bulbs, corms, and tubers from specialist nurseries to plant this autumn. The more exciting and unusual varieties tend to sell out quickly, so it’s wise to think ahead and place your order early.
If you don’t feel like shopping but would like some new plants, it’s the ideal time to take soft-wood cuttings of shrubs such a Deutzia and Weigela.
It’s the perfect time to sow the following biennials; Oenothera biennis (evening primrose), Cheiranthus cheiri (wallflower), Dianthus barbatus, Dipsacus fullonum (teasel), Digitalis purpurea (foxglove), Hesperis matronalis (sweet rocket), Lunaria biennis (honesty), Myosotis sylvatica (forget-me-not), polyanthus, poppies, sweet Williams, winter pansies, and Verbascum thapsus. These varieties are very beneficial to bees, pollinating insects and wildlife, and look fantastic in your garden!
Sowing Hellebore seeds now, before they have formed a hard seed coat will result in speedier germination, often in just a few days.
Feed roses with a specially designed rose feed to encourage flowering.
Sow French beans, runner beans, Florence fennel, beetroot, carrot, chicory, endive, kohlrabi, courgette, pumpkin, peas, mangetout, radish, spring cabbage, swedes, and turnip now.
Sow radish, spinach and lettuce in a shady spot; these vegetables will also grow very happily in containers. I like to mix my own salad mix of rocket, tom thumb lettuce, sorrel, spinach, fennel, and parsley. I mix the seed together and then sow in a trough by the back door. You can cut this salad mix as you use it, and it will regrow in a week or two, so you’ll have a constant supply. I also grow pea shoots in containers, they are absolutely delicious! I enjoy eating mangetout ‘Oregon Sugar Pod’ in this way, although varieties such as ‘Serge’ and ‘Twinkle’ are also good. Varieties of pea and mangetout will also regrow as you cut shoots, so you’ll have delicious salad all summer long!
Plant out summer cabbages, broccoli and Brussels sprouts now. Ensure that you protect your plants from cabbage root fly using home-made cardboard discs, with a slit into the centre, so you can insert them around your plants. It’s important that your protector fits fairly snuggly, as the adult fly wants to lay her eggs on the soil at the base of the stem. Eggs laid on cardboard or roofing felt – or whatever material you use to make protectors, will dry out and the eggs won’t hatch. It’s also wise to cover brassicas with netting to protect against cabbage white butterflies and pigeons.
While you’ve got the net out, you may want to net any fruit trees or bushes too – but ensure your net has wide enough spaces for bees to get through, so they can pollinate your fruit.
Stop harvesting asparagus now. Provide support for your Asparagus ferns using bamboo canes and string, position the canes at regular intervals, to form a rectangle around the asparagus, and then simply wind or tie twine around the canes, to provide support at three intervals, from fairly close to the ground upwards. This will protect your asparagus against wind damage, allowing the ferns to develop to their full size and build up the necessary reserves and strength they require to grow successfully for next year’s crop.
In trials on my own allotment, I have found companion planting asparagus with Calendula reduces the number of asparagus beetles and their larva that my asparagus endures. I grow open centred varieties of Calendula, which are great for bees and other pollinating insects, such as the regular pot marigold Calendula officinalis, or for something a bit different try Calendula officinalis ‘Sherbet Fizz’, or Calendula officinalis nana ‘Fruit Twist’.
Remove any flower spikes on rhubarb as they appear.
Earth up maincrop potatoes.
After 6 weeks the nutrients in compost run out of steam, so use a high-potash feed to encourage flowering, tomato feed is ideal. Keep deadheading to ensure continuous flowering and prevent your plants producing seed rather than flowers. It also keeps everything looking pretty; even a few minutes deadheading makes a huge difference, but it is important to deadhead regularly to get the most out of your bedding plants.
If you’ve got concerns about slugs and snails, there are so many options other than slug pellets to protect your plants. Horse hair and human hair provide fantastic protection against slugs and snails, just sprinkle it around your plants. Soot, ash from the fire, eggshells, grit, and sand are also useful. The slug with its soft, slimy body does not want to cross a barrier that will dry it out or be abrasive to the slug or snail’s protective coating. Copper bands are also very effective, but these do require a quick once over with some sandpaper every now and then to prevent the copper oxidising.
These are all fun things to try, there are many other remedies too; there’s really no need to use nasty slug pellets, which are so detrimental to birds, hedgehogs, and the other creatures that rely on slugs and snails for food. I’d much rather have hedgehogs in my garden than slug pellets!
I hope you enjoy this busy, but at times serene month in your garden. I have my fingers crossed for a bright and sunny month ahead, to benefit plants and gardeners alike!
This article was first published in the mid-June 2013 edition of The Surrey and Hants News.
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