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  • Louise Mills

Summer's Round the Corner

As spring-flowering bulbs continue to fade, the herbaceous borders are filling out and bursting into life. Temperatures are starting to rise and, with longer, warmer days, the risk of frost will have passed by the end of the month. Summer is approaching, inviting us to spend more time outside and, as ever, there is plenty to be getting on with in the garden.

Perennials, Shrubs and Trees

● Prune early-flowering shrubs when the flowers have faded, including Forsythia, Spiraea and Chaenomeles. Next year’s flowers will form on growth produced throughout the rest of this year.

● Take softwood cuttings from shrubs and tender perennials. They are now producing plenty of young fresh shoots that are ideal for this type of propagation. This can be done through to July.

● Keep tying in climbers as they grow, including roses, clematis, sweet peas and vines. Make figures-of-eight with twine so that stems do not rub directly against their supports.

● Prune spring-flowering clematis; the amount of pruning required will depend on the growing situation and available space, but pruning stems right back will encourage new growth that will produce flowers next spring.

● Lift and divide spring-flowering perennials, including Pulmonaria and Primula. In both cases, old foliage can be cut right back. Revitalise the soil with garden compost or manure before replanting divided clumps.

● Now is also a great time for planting herbs. The flowers of thyme, rosemary and marjoram are magnets for pollinators.

Kitchen Garden

● Harvest early crops such as salad leaves and radishes as they mature.

● Sow courgettes, marrows, runner beans, French beans, squashes and sweetcorn either indoors or outdoors; seeds sown indoors will grow a little quicker. It is now too late to sow tomatoes.

● Continue to successional sow beetroot, cabbage, carrots, salad onions, lettuce, peas, broad beans, radishes and turnips. Sowing shorter rows or fewer seeds will help to avoid a glut.

● Start sowing winter vegetables, including cauliflowers and purple sprouting broccoli, giving them a chance to develop throughout the summer.

● Plant out leeks; wait until seedlings are approximately 10-12cm high and then plant them individually in holes about 15cm deep. Do not firm the soil around the plant. Instead, fill the hole with water and allow soil to wash down into the hole and cover the roots.

● Earth up early potatoes, drawing a little soil up over the emerging shoots. This protects them from late frosts, prevents developing potatoes from being exposed to the light and also encourages the development of roots further up the stems, thereby increasing overall yield.

● Remove runners from strawberries so that plants focus their energy on producing fruit. If you wish to propagate your strawberry plants, pot up some of the runners. Straw or mulch mats can also be placed around the base of the plant to protect the fruits from rotting or being spoiled by rain-splashed soil or slugs.

● Prune out unwanted shoots on all raspberries; by reducing congestion, airflow will be increased and the plant can focus its energy on fruit production.

● Pinch out the tips of broad beans when the lowest truss of flowers has formed; this will encourage fruiting and discourage blackfly, which love the young succulent growing tips.

● Feed your tomatoes, aubergine, sweet pepper and chilli plants once the first flowers start to appear. Maxicrop seaweed extract is a good natural alternative and a sustainable, renewable resource providing a good source of potassium, magnesium and other trace elements vital for the growth of the fruit. This can be applied weekly through the growing season.

● If you have a greenhouse, don’t forget to monitor the temperature as the weather gets warmer. Damp down regularly, splashing water on the floor to increase the humidity and lower the temperature. You could also use shade paint or netting to reduce heat and light transmission.

● Keep an eye out for pests and diseases particularly in the greenhouse as temperatures rise. Ensure proper ventilation and use biological controls, sticky traps or insecticidal sprays like SB Invigorator to control aphid, whitefly and greenfly populations. Also consider whether a physical barrier (e.g. fine mesh netting , copper bands, etc.) or traps (i.e. beer traps) could be put in place instead. You can also encourage the natural predators of pests into your garden to help keep pest populations under control. Remember, healthy plants are less susceptible to attack so mulch newly planted plants and keep them watered well during dry spells.

Other Jobs

● Late frosts remain a possibility so keep cloches or fleece handy to protect tender plants if necessary.

● Continue hoeing regularly to keep on top of the weeds. It’s best to do this on a dry day so that seedlings will dry out on the surface rather than re-rooting themselves in damp soil.

● Continue mowing the lawn regularly. If you are thinking of buying a new mower, or any other power tool for the garden, consider going electric to reduce both air and noise pollution.

● Daffodils and narcissi can be cut back once the leaves have turned yellow, typically six weeks after the last blossom has died. Bulbs need to die back naturally so that energy is put back into the bulb to produce flowers next year.

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