Flaming June! Well let’s hope so, we are certainly due some better and warmer weather. Pots and containers will be perfectly alright outside now though some of us still need to provide wind shelter and if they do fail it is probably because they were not properly hardened off before being put out side. I rail constantly about the big garden centres and out of town stores that have non hardy bedding for sale in March which they keep under cover and then the unsuspecting go and buy trays full of stuff which cringes in the cold of April and May and never recovers.
If this has happened to you then remember next year not to rush to put out summer bedding, if it’s well looked after early in the season it will last much longer into late September. If you still have empty pots go and look for bedding now or even better find some good hardy perennials which are in flower now and will last you for years not just a season. For longevity and a flowering period into September go seek out a Eucomis lily that will double up in its pot every year, cost you a fiver and be trouble free for the sake of a once fortnightly tomato feed. Alternatively turn to the English lavenders which will give weeks of pleasure and the differing varieties from the smaller Hidcotes and Munsteads to the tallest Vera mean there is a variety for every pot and border space.
I was late putting my first early potatoes in this year which will probably mean the crop will be blitzed by blight. This appears almost overnight as a bit of foliage goes yellow and within days the whole of the foliage has died. If your crop is affected don’t panic as the chances are your potato crop is big enough to harvest and the potatoes are initially unaffected. Blight in a tomato crop however is fatal and there is no remedy. Be sure to clean the greenhouse well and burn the foliage. If you compost blight ridden foliage from any crop it will fester in the compost heap just ready to return next year so do not be tempted.
I have had a go at growing mushrooms this year and there appears to be some success. We had a new bathroom fitted so I took the old bath and put it out in the field in the shade and filled it full of garden compost. The mushroom spawn was then spread on the top and covered with a thin layer of compost and then wet newspapers. Two weeks later I put manure over the whole thing and a little later than expected we seem to have some growth. The tardiness of the crop was probably due to the cool spring and also the fluctuating temperatures between night and day quite late into the season. The old bath is not in public view as I confess it is not the most attractive of containers but appears to be working as the beginnings of what could be my small mushroom farm – I have acquired two further old baths and will be spreading more mushroom spawn this month.
You may have seen the furore this year and last about the busy lizzies which have blight – very few are available and I have also had some veg seed failures for the first time ever. I had a several packets of Runner bean Galaxy that failed to germinate and some pepper seed that never materialised either. The seed company with whom I remonstrated accept that there are regular failures and insist that I have been fortunate in the past not to have any. However if you do have a problem they are more than content to replace seed or give credit for next season so do not suffer in silence. Return open packets to the retailer or seed company.
Sometimes when I sit down to write this article I have so much in my head and am not sure which way to go. On other occasions I have to wait for inspiration. So imagine my joy on one of these blank occasions when I was in Church doing the altar flowers and I spied two of our parishioners (one male, one female and unrelated) chuckling and chatting in the Vestry. I ventured in and said ‘Great, I can write and embellish an article about you two in the Vestry, that will set tongues wagging’
To which the lady replied ‘and what will that have to do with gardening?’ Oh I will tie something in’, I said. To which the man replied’ actually while you are here, what’s wrong with my tomatoes, the leaves have gone yellow?’ Now this was early May and it was almost certainly due to temperature. The days were warm but we got close to 2/3degs C at night and without heat the plants were struggling. Of course he may also have over watered them as they were not using much in those cooler temperatures. The same to an extent was true of the lady’s runner bean plants which she had planted too early. The pair continued in their Church duties, discussing their gardening issues and much laughter ensued as I continued with the flowers – once again I had found a little tit bit for this article in a most unusual location and sorry to disappoint but I cannot tell you who they were….for all I know this may be a regular meeting place and I was the unwelcome intruder!
A list of jobs for June must start with weeding but remember to cut down lupins, oriental poppies and cat mint. Many perennials like these will look much tidier and most will flower again and leave you with more flowers and better looking foliage. Spring pansies and violas will also flower again treated in this way.
Feed tomatoes and cucumbers with tomato food and use that too on bedding tubs and troughs. Spring flowering primrose and polyanthus that have finished in tubs can be planted in the garden in a shady place ready to flower next year. Side shoot the tomatoes and don’t take out the growing tip until they are tall as your greenhouse will contain. Dead head annuals daily to prolong flowering and pick sweet peas very regularly. Once they produce seeds their job is done and they will stop flowering. Of course, all this advice assumes you have some good plants of both veg and flowers and that they were not either blown away or drowned or just decided not to come up in a prolonged winter and rotten spring. Oh I hope it is flaming June, we deserve it now, don’t we?