Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Here comes the summer!

Matthew Blog June

The long range weather forecast for June suggests a typical British summer with continued unsettled weather, now that is mixed news for the gardener! My tropical border has finally been planted out and the sun and rain will help the plants to establish quickly, though higher temperatures would help – the plants might think that they were in the tropics! The border doesn’t look great at the moment (see image) but it is packed with plants and in a few months it will be transformed!

It is Canna and Hedychium heavy this year following a spending spree last November. Several sceptics thought that the small pieces of rhizome I’d bought would not survive the winter but apart from a couple, which I overwatered, they are thriving. Tropical borders are great fun, the design changes annually, according to what survives the winter under glass and variety is the spice of life!

It’s also a good opportunity to plant brightly coloured Dahlia’s like rich orange ‘Happy Halloween’. You can use lots of ‘garden centre plants’, the only criteria is that there should be a mix of big leaves and bright colours. It is not too late to plant a border or large pots with ‘exotic’s’ from early June, they grow rapidly and always have a massive burst of growth in early September to be at their best late in the season.

It is essential to keep your garden weed free, particularly at this time of year when plants and weeds grow strongly. Handweed, hoe, use a flame gun or environmentally friendly herbicides like those based on pelargonic acid – reducing numbers now, before they flower and set seed, saves so much work later on.

Keep removing the side shoots of cordon tomatoes, which appear where the base of the leaf joins the main stem. Break them off with your finger and thumb when they are about 2.5cm long. It is a pleasant, leisurely task, that needs doing a little and often. Keep your tomatoes moist but not waterlogged, using tepid water. Growing greenhouse tomatoes in pots or borders, it is much easier to water them correctly; moisture levels in growing bags tend to fluctuate between being too wet or too dry. Correct moisture levels are one of the keys to success; irregular watering leads to fruit splitting or blossom end rot, when the base of the tomato becomes flat and brown. Stick your finger in the compost, if there are compost particles on it when you pull it out, the compost is moist enough; if there are no particles, the compost needs watering. Gardening is not an exact science!

Removing faded flowers or ‘dead heading’ extends the flowering season of annuals, hanging basket plants like Pelargonium’s, herbaceous plants and is vital for sweet peas, which stop flowering if they start to produce seed. The only plants which are not deadheaded are those that are grown for their ornamental fruit or if you want to collect the seeds later in the season. Deadheading roses before they die and the petals fall means there’s less tidying up too; which always helps the busy gardener.

Happy Gardening! Matt.