Colour, colour everywhere
After a more ‘normal’ gardening year so far, the mixture of sunshine and rain has means everything is now growing like crazy, but there’s still time to plant for a blazing burst of summer colour.
Plant larger pots of bedding plants such fuchsias and summer flowering plants, including the new ‘Trixi’ basket plant, to fill in gaps and give instant colour. Feed and water weekly to encourage strong, lasting blooms – and deadhead regularly to ensure you’ll have colour right through to the first autumn frosts. Hanging baskets need daily watering and feeding – even with the slow release fertilizers added to composts, you’ll see the extra benefits from a bit of extra liquid feed.
Planning for hot weather
If you’re going away, get someone to water your tubs and baskets for you. Indoor plants can be stood on capillary matting – the other end is put into a container full of water and the plants will take up the water as they need it – but do make sure you thoroughly wet the matting first.
Tomatoes and cucumbers need water regularly during hot weather. The best time to water them is in the morning as this keeps the atmosphere humid and prevents the plants staying damp overnight, which can cause problems with grey mould or botrytis.
There’s plenty of choice in the herbaceous sections as we move through summer; alongside the ever-popular lupins and delphiniums, try the less common astrantias, centranthus and the butterfly-beloved verbena bonanariensis. Stake and tie taller herbaceous plants before they get floppy.
Deadheading as flowers finish will often encourage a plant to produce another flourish of colour after the main blooms have finished. Make the most of a sunny day and pull up or hoe any weeds still lurking in your borders.
Dealing with pests
Keep roses in good condition by spraying every 10 days to keep aphids under control, as well as dealing with powdery mildew and black spot.
Woolly aphid is a fruit tree pest that’s getting more and more common. It appears as fluffy white cotton wool like patches on fruit tree stems and ornamental trees – the insect is hidden under the fluff and sucks the sap from stems. Use Provado Ultimate Bug Killer as a control, but follow the directions as you have to leave time before harvesting the fruit. This product can also be used for a whole host of pests including aphids, lily beetles and whitefly… and with the mild winter we had, there are plenty of pests about. After a damp May, there are also a lot of slugs to be found – watch out for damage on marigolds, hostas and the tender new shoots of herbaceous plants. Beer traps and copper slug tape are two ways you can try and reduce damage.
The withdrawal of the chemical control for leatherjackets means it’s harder to prevent this rapidly spreading pest. Leatherjackets, the pupae of the crane fly or daddy-long-legs, cause irregular brown patches and loose turf. Grubs appear from August to September, and their presence is often signalled by starlings and thrushes pecking away on the lawn. You can purchase a biological nematode online to help with control – it’s a living organism, so apply it as soon as you receive it, but be sure the soil temperature is at least 12C.
Two further two lawn problems are becoming more common. ‘Red thread’ appears as circular pink patches in grass as red threadlike strands form near the tops of leaf blades. The second is fusarium, a fungal disease, which appears as dull brown patches. Both can be prevalent in autumn; if you spot either, spray immediately with Lawn Disease Control by Bayer.
Keep sowing lettuce, endive, spinach and radish in the veg patch to get a continuous harvest. Use a fine netting to cover cabbages, cauliflowers, carrots and other particularly susceptible vegetables against flies, pigeons and butterflies. Harvest peas and runner beans regularly whilst they are young and tender; freeze any spares to be enjoyed during the lean winter months.
For new potatoes in October or at Christmas, plant seed potatoes in tubs in July and August. Growth will finish in October, but leave the tubers in their pots until required for cooking. Remember they’ll need frost protection once the winter frosts appear.
Looking ahead to winter
It seems only five minutes since spring bulbs were in flower, but if you want hyacinths for Christmas, they must be planted and put into a dark cool place in September; they’ll be available from August. Most varieties require an 8-10 week cool period followed by 2-3 weeks of warmer conditions to bring them into flower. Use a compost specifically for bulbs, as it will contain charcoal to keep the soil sweet.
This month’s tips are provided by Ann Winwood of Lealans Garden Centre, Shipley