Sarah's Snippets

June Gardening Jobs!

June is a glorious month in the garden, a real cornucopia of flowers and summer fruits with plump strawberries and summer fruiting raspberries on the way.  There is lots to do and lots to enjoy in the garden this month. Here are a few of my suggestions as to what you can be getting up to to really make the most of this glorious season. 

A number of shrubs have already flowered this year, Ribes, (flowering currant), Forsythia and Cytisus (Broom) to mention just a few.  These plants flower on wood produced during the preceding summer and this means that if you want to preserve the shape of the plant or stop it from becoming too rampant you need to do something about it now.  Leave it too late and it will not flower so well next spring.  Generally it is a case of cutting back the shoots that have flowered and cutting out any dead or diseased stems.  An essential tool for this sort of job is a good pair of secateurs.  I have two pairs one with an anvil blade which has a chopping action ideal for dead wood and another with a bypass action which gives a better cut on green wood.  A pair of loppers is needed for anything over about ½ inch in diameter.  With their long handles, a pair of loppers is ideal for snipping in those hard to reach places in the garden.

Vigorous cottage garden plants may need staking.  Delphiniums and Canterbury Bells can look a little wobbly and Cornflowers may look as if a small elephant has sat in the middle of them.  Of course it is better to think about staking sooner rather than later and really organised people grow their herbaceous perennials through meshed wire.  I resort to canes and string or link stakes which are coated in green plastic and linked together around the plant you want to hold up. 

Deadhead bedding plants to encourage them to flower over a longer period and treat them to a feed.  I promise it will pay dividends.  Roses also benefit from deadheading.  Pots and hanging baskets may need watering every day and should be feed at least once a fortnight.

Tomatoes should start to fruit this month.  Keep the plants well supported to remove the side shoots regularly.  Use a liquid tomato feed to promote a good crop.  Salad crops can be sown outside and do not be alarmed if your apple trees start to shed some small unripe fruit.  This is generally called “June drop”.  This is a natural process which occurs when the tree has set more fruits than it can ripen successfully.  There will still be a good crop come September.

Weeds can be a problem at this time of the year.  Annual weeds are fairly easy to deal with by hand weeding or using a weed killer if you prefer.  It is the perennial weeds with their deep roots that are more of a challenge.  You can dig them out but often small parts of the root remain and sprout again.  Bindweed can be a particular problem and sometimes a systemic weed killer is needed.  This enters through the leaves and is carried down through the stems to the roots which it destroys.  Some of these weed killers come in the form of a spray or a gel that can be painted onto the leaves using the little brush in the pot.  As with all garden chemicals weed killers should only be used in strict accordance with the instructions.

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Bedding Plants

My office overlooks the car park at our Badshot Lea garden centre.  I am always intrigued to see what people have bought as they load up their cars.  Looking out of the window today it seems that nearly every customer is taking away containers, compost and what we traditionally called bedding plants.

Bedding plants are Geraniums, Petunias, Busy Lizzies and the like that used to form the backbone of formal parks planting schemes.  They were called bedding plants because they were grown in nurseries and then ‘bedded out’ in to their flowering position.   These days, as a result of the container revolution, these plants are increasingly referred to as patio plants.  Formal bedding schemes are out and informal mixed borders and, above all, planted containers are in.

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I am always nervous early in the season as I see trays of these tender plants going out.  No matter how many signs we put around the place saying ‘protect from frost’ I fear that some will be casualties. However, the danger from frost should be well and truly over now.  This is a truly liberating feeling. Time to go wild and have some fun with colour.  These days there are so many bedding plants available.  Ever more interesting varieties of old favourites such as Fuchsias and Geraniums vie with Osteospermum, Nemesia and Verbena in a vast array of colours.  Shocking pink, pillar-box red, vivid orange and vibrant yellow or purple contrast with cool white, pastel pink and subtle shades of blue.

The great thing about gardening in containers is that a huge garden is not required.   A patio or balcony will do.  Also you can move pots about and change their contents according to the season.  You can also use pots to express style by careful choice of container and plants.  Pale flowers look good against a dark background.  Yellow Petunias will draw the eye away from a brown fence.  If you are planting a specimen single tree such as an Acer or exotic species such as an Aloe or even a Hosta in a pot designed to last a long time you probably only want one to achieve the desired architectural effect. However when using bedding plants it really is a case of the more the merrier.  It is better to plant two good full containers than four straggly ones.  Instant impact and a summer full of colour is what it is all about.

 

There is no doubt that bedding plants are hungry.  Multi purpose compost is fine for planting up bedding plants in containers or hanging baskets.  However there are also some specialist tub and basket composts which contain more nutrients so the need to feed is delayed.  An easy way to feed if you use multi purpose compost is to combine a slow release or controlled release fertiliser in the compost at the time of planting.  There are also liquid and soluble feeds that can be used regularly during the growing season.

Water is obviously vital.  Using a water retentive gel in the containers at the time of planting helps.  The aim is never to let the compost totally dry out or it can be difficult to re wet.  This does require a degree of vigilance and helpful neighbours while you are on holiday.  At the opposite end of the spectrum always ensure that the container has drainage holes in the bottom so that water logging is not a problem.

I am not a violent person but I do have to admit to arming myself regularly with a pair of secateurs and taking out the frustrations of the day on the bedding plants in the evening.  The job in hand is to cut off the old dead heads and faded flowers to encourage further flowering.  By removing the old flowers the plant cannot set seed so, in an attempt to reproduce, has to form more flowers.  It really does work.image

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