With Joyce Russell
THIS is a perfect time of year to relax and enjoy the garden. If the sun shines and the strawberries ripen, then you are sorted for some outdoor time to enjoy what you have created. There are always plenty of things to do, of course, but the frantic dash of the last couple of months has started to ease. All small plants should be in their final growing position and sowings for many winter crops won’t start until next month.
If you haven’t planted out your pumpkins, climbing beans, corn, leeks, etc, then do it now. Most plants need a decent growing period before they begin to crop and if you hold then back too long then they may never have the bumper achievements that they are capable of.
There should be a good mix of colour from flowering plants and plenty of leaf on plants that will start to bloom in the coming weeks. Remember to cut off dead flower heads if you want to keep plants looking good and flowering for longer.
If you spot any damaged plants, take a look underneath lower leaves and remove any slugs and snails that you find. These pests can wreak havoc on small plants and they even climb up the tall stems of lupins and eat out clumps of flower buds. If you want an intact and glorious display, then it’s worth heading out just after dark with a torch and removing the culprits – there may only be one or two slugs causing a lot of the damage.
Tall specimen plants
Any tall plant needs some support in our climate. Fine weather can soon turn to heavy rain or winds and your fine upstanding Brussels sprouts, hollyhocks, or peas can be left on the ground. Some clumps of flowers will stretch and flop outwards under the influence of gravity. Act before they do so and create a support that looks sympathetic with what you are growing.
I have several large clumps of Crocosmia Lucifer. This spreads with ease and produce a fine display of deep red flowers over several weeks. The plant can grow to 1.5m tall and flower stems fall outwards if you don’t take action.
I knock four poles into the ground around each clump and wind jute rope around these to hold the leaves in. If you do this now, while leaves are at half-height, then as they grow the rope is concealed by leaves poking through, but the bulk of the plant will remain upright.
The poles will last a couple of years before they need to be replaced. Remove and store the rope each autumn when leaves die back and are cleared back to ground level again.
Pests and problems
Just when the garden is looking its best, you start to notice the odd thing that isn’t quite right. Maybe it’s a few discoloured lower leaves and all the plant needs is a nutrient rich feed to allow healthier growth. Or slugs and snails could be working through your lettuces on the vegetable patch. Act quickly before too much damage is done and always before a problem has got to the point of no return.
Greenfly can really take a hold this month. Check under new leaves that start to curl, or if you notice any sticky residue or more ants around a plant than you would like to see. Greenfly in small numbers aren’t much of a problem but the population can increase rapidly. These pests suck sap and can stunt new small leaves. Pepper plants are particularly prone to attack and greenfly can be hard to remove once they establish inside the protection of a greenhouse. Take potted plants outdoors and spray with water to knock the pests off. If plants are in the ground, then spray with a weak soapy water solution and hose this off once the pests are killed.
It may seem early to talk about potato blight since this usually doesn’t appear until July. In a muggy damp June you might see the first signs, so be vigilant and act as soon as you identify the first blight patches on leaves. Fingers crossed this is one of those good dry summers when we get the great potato crops that we all need.
Polytunnel and greenhouse plants are growing well and there are some delicious early fruits to harvest. It can get very hot on bright sunny days so keep everything well ventilated and spray overhead with water if temperatures soar too high. Tomatoes can suffer from sun scorch – yellow tops to fruit can be a sign of this or it can be down to a calcium shortage. Salad plants wilt and bolt quickly in a hot greenhouse, so provide some shade to keep them cool if you can.