June blesses us with the truly wonderful convenience of being able to sow seeds outside without any risk of frost culling seedlings or dashing our hopes. Make the most of this wonderful moment: summer can feel endless, but speed is of the essence if you are to provide your courgettes, pumpkins, French beans, and runner bean plants with sufficient time to grow, mature, and produce a decent harvest.
Supermarket basil plants are usually grown in pots filled with peat. We should not be using peat for environmental reasons, but besides this, peat is a poor choice of growing medium for herbs, including basil. Basil plants don’t want to sit in wet, claggy compost; these plants are happiest growing in free-draining, peat-free compost in a bright and sunny area. When removed from the specialist lighting and computer-controlled conditions provided by supermarket growers, basil plants often decline rapidly after purchase.
Seed merchants offer us a diverse selection of basil varieties with new and interesting flavours that make a refreshing change from the basil offered by supermarkets. This is the perfect time to sow basil seeds outdoors. There’s no need for containers or compost, basil thrives when sown directly in sandy, silty, light, free-draining, or loamy soils. If your soil tends to be wet in summertime, install a raised bed, or stick to containers for growing herbs. Clay soils can be improved by adding a mulch of homemade garden compost.
When I had my allotment, I loved to sow basil seeds in rows directly in the silty soil on the sunniest side of my allotment; direct sowing is by far the easiest and most effective method to grow basil. Not everyone enjoys the luxury of a garden or allotment, but I have found that containers filled with a mix of my sandy soil and Dalefoot Wool Compost for Potting also work very well for basil. Use tap water to irrigate your seedlings and water first thing in the morning, if possible. Don’t water again until the compost dries out.
Of the traditional basils, Mr Fothergill’s ‘Aroma 2’ produces strong, healthy, and productive plants with delicious leaves that are perfect for pesto. ‘Sweet Genovese’ is another traditional sweet basil with a fantastic flavour. For something a little different, try Real Seeds ‘Mammoth’ basil for large leaves with a distinct aniseed flavour. When I first I tried a leaf of Real Seeds ‘Lemon Basil’ I found the lemon flavour a little overpowering, but it works beautifully in pesto and cooked dishes. Real Seeds ‘Cinnamon Basil’ leaves are sweet and aromatic.
You don’t need an outdoor garden, you can grow basil seeds on your brightest windowsill. Use a container with a hole in the base that will allow water to drain through and choose free-draining, peat-free compost. Whether sowing seed in soil or containers, choose a sunny, sheltered area. Basil loves to bask in the sunshine, but indoor gardeners should avoid intense direct light, which is likely to scorch your basil plant’s sensitive leaves.
Basil can be grown very successfully as delicious, sprouted seeds or microgreens on any windowsill. However, I must highlight that when sprouting seeds or growing microgreens, it’s important to only use seeds that are specifically sold and labelled as suitable for home sprouting. Seeds deemed to be destined for outdoor growing could be contaminated with pesticides or other treatments; whereas seed that’s sold for sprouting is subject to stricter safety controls.
Please don’t panic if you discover aphids or blackfly on your roses. Nature is interconnected and aphids are an important part of the food chain, providing sustenance for some of our favourite predators, including ladybirds, hoverfly larvae, Blue Tits, and other birds. I never use any pesticides or insecticides in my garden. If you really feel that you can’t have aphids in your garden, please don’t use a pesticide or insecticide – simply use a garden hose to wash aphids off your roses.
Broad bean plants often suffer from severe aphid infestations, if this bothers you simply pinch out the tips of these plants and the aphids will disappear overnight.
If you’ve planted any new roses, trees, shrubs, or hedges over the past year or two, remember to water these plants during periods of dry weather. Give your plants at least one full bucket of water per plant, each time you water to encourage your plants’ roots to penetrate deeper into the soil. Spread a layer of homemade garden compost, well-rotted manure, or peat-free compost around your plants after a period of heavy rain (or watering) to help retain moisture and enrich the soil.
Every year, large numbers of hedgehogs are horribly wounded or killed by gardeners strimming long grasses. Hedgehogs are nocturnal; they sleep during the daytime while we’re outside gardening and so they are unaware they are in danger before it’s too late. Hedgehog nests are incredibly well camouflaged and are difficult to spot. Please check each area of long grass over thoroughly, before starting up your strimmer. Trim grass in stages – cutting the grass shorter each week until you reach your desired height. This will give hedgehogs a chance to move on to another area. Why not leave areas of long grass for nature? Even one small patch of long grass will make a difference to insects and wildlife.
Please don’t use pesticides or slug pellets in your garden, as we need to help nature and protect biodiversity. Hedgehogs are the cutest form of pest control! A hedgehog’s diet consists of mainly caterpillars, beetles, and other insects. Contrary to popular opinion, hedgehogs don’t choose one garden to live in, they patrol large territories and need to travel substantial distances to find enough caterpillars and insects to sustain themselves and find a mate. Please talk to your neighbours; together you could help hedgehogs and other wildlife by creating a ‘Hedgehog Highway’ – a 13cm (5”) by 13cm (5”) gap at the bottom of the fence on each side of your garden to allow hedgehogs to safely pass from one garden to another. For more tips on how to help hedgehogs, please click here.
To see my plant pages, please click here to see pictures and advice for growing a wide range of plants including plants for bees and butterflies, vegetables, fruit, shrubs, trees houseplants, orchids, ferns and more, please click here.
For information on growing plants from the UK, please click here.