We are delighted that Ade Sellers of Agents of Field is joining our blog team (along with Stephanie Hafferty and Becky Searle) here at Dalefoot Composts. Ade’s piece focuses on the sheer exuberance of the June garden along with the many jobs that need our attention to keep our gardens in tip-top condition.
Gardening Jobs for June - By Ade Sellars
The skies are blue, the birds are singing and with the prospect of the longest day of the year this month, summer has finally arrived! For the past few months, we’ve been working up to this glorious season: sowing seeds, potting on, and planting out. But with flowers now blooming and crops ready for the picking, it’s time to reap the rewards.
So, make hay while the sun shines with some gardening jobs, that will keep your gardens thriving throughout this glorious season.
Spring plants will recede and leave spaces in beds and borders, something that is known as the ‘June Gap’. So, look to summer’s showstopper, the dahlia, which is guaranteed to set your garden alight. With a wide range of colours, shapes, and sizes to choose from, these flowers are easy to grow and maintain, flowering right up to the first frosts. Keep them well watered, and apply a top dressing as the blooms appear.
Alternatively, direct sow some of your summer favourites, such as tithonia and sunflowers. Ensure the planting area is somewhere sunny and sheltered, and the soil is worked to a fine tilth. Sow seeds in a shallow trough or hole, cover over, mark the area and water. As seedlings develop, keep the area free of weeds. Plants may also need staking due to their height and large flowerheads.
Any remaining summer bedding plants that have been grown, or bought, should now be hardened off and planted up into their final growing positions. Consider using pots, containers and hanging baskets if growing space is an issue. With warmer temperatures ahead, try using Dalefoot’s ‘Wool Compost for Potting’. Not only will it provide plants with the necessary nutrients that will ensure successful blooms throughout the season, but
its ability to retain water will ensure plants thrive during hot spells, and won’t dry out.
Roses may have already passed their first bloom, so prune and tidy the plant. This will encourage repeat flowering varieties to flower again. Spent lupins, delphiniums and oriental poppies should be cutdown to the plant’s base, as this can trigger a second bloom later in the season. Pick flowering sweet peas regularly to prevent them from going to seed. Other perennials, climbers and rambling plants may need tying in to a support structure, as they continue to put on growth and develop blooms.
In a few months, autumn will be knocking at our door, so now is a good time to sow autumn plants, such as pansies and polyanthus. Sow seeds onto a tray of fine compost, water and cover lightly. Place in the greenhouse and check regularly to ensure germination has occurred. Remember to keep soil moist.
To ensure summer floral displays receive maximum hydration, water your plants first thing in the morning, or at dusk, when temperatures are lower and there’s less water evaporation. Water at the base of the plants, and not the entire bed, to save water. Mulching around the base of flowers with Dalefoot’s compost will also prevent moisture loss.
If you want to keep water costs down, install as many water butts or water containers in and around your garden. Or, re-use your ‘grey’ water, whether it’s washing-up or bath water. As long as it doesn’t contain salt or bleach, then it’s fit for purpose.
As we face a changing climate, you may want to consider drought-tolerant plants, such as sedum ‘Atlantis’ which won ‘Flower of the Year’ at the 2019 Chelsea Flower Show. There is now a wide range of drought-tolerant plants available in garden nurseries and online, ensuring your green space remains rich in colour and structure throughout summer, while saving on precious water.
If growing veg is more your thing, then tomatoes are a must for any gardener. With plants in their final growing positions, a regular water regime is vital as irregular watering can lead to blossom end rot or split fruit. Blossom end rot occurs when there’s a lack of calcium and appears at the bottom of the tomato as a blackened spot.
When flowers begin to form, feed plants weekly with a liquid tomato feed. If you are growing them in Dalefoot’s Wool Compost for Tomatoes no feed is needed. As cordon varieties grow tall, pinch-out side-shoots; this will transfer the energy into the growing tomatoes. With several trusses of flowers growing, remove the tip of the main stem. The plant can then put its efforts into producing the fruit and not waste energy on trying to grow taller. Once tomatoes fill out, remove the lower branches of the plant. Not only will this let the sunlight ripen the fruit, but it will increase ventilation and reduce problems such as tomato leaf mould. If you’re growing plants outside, this method could help reduce tomato blight, especially if there’s a prolonged period of warm, wet weather. Bush variety tomatoes can be left to their own devices. Or, grow them in hanging baskets and pots to make an attractive feature.
You may notice this month fruit trees, such as apples and pears, shedding some of their fruit. This is called the ‘June Drop’, and it’s perfectly normal. This allows the remaining fruit to grow on successfully without having to compete with other swelling fruit for nutrients, water and sunshine. It also improves ventilation and reduces pest numbers. Some gardeners carry this method out themselves, by reducing clusters of emerging fruit to two or three.
Strawberries, early potatoes, broad beans and peas should be ready for harvesting. Once the leaves of garlic and onions yellow and dieback, these too can be lifted. Temperatures are warm enough now for sweetcorn, pumpkin and squash plants to be planted outside into their final growing positions. These are greedy plants, so use a rich-filled compost, such as Dalefoot’s Wool Compost for Vegetables and Salads, and plant deeply. Water thoroughly and often.
Pests and diseases will also be making their presence felt, so keep an eye out for them. Net brassicas to stop pigeons pulling the leaves apart, and prevent the cabbage white butterfly from laying eggs on the foliage. If you’re growing carrots and parsnips, erect a fleece or mesh barrier around the crop, at least 40cm high, to deter carrot root fly.
Another method of discouraging pests is companion planting. With plants working together, the right combination can attract pollinators and deter pests. For example, planting marigolds around the base of tomatoes deters pests due to the flower’s smell.
Or, try growing sacrificial plants, these are plants specifically grown for pests. For example, nasturtiums attract the cabbage white butterfly. They will eat, decimate and lay their eggs on the plant, leaving your growing brassicas unharmed.
If you have a greenhouse, keep doors, windows and vents open throughout the day to create a decent airflow, that’ll help deter pests and diseases and keep plants healthy. If red spider mite occurs, dampen down paths daily. You may also want to create shading in your greenhouse to prevent plants from being scorched.
A gardener can adapt, change and grow. So, let’s embrace these strengths and be mindful of our environmental responsibilities, to create a place of sustainability and biodiversity this summer, as well as a beautiful garden.
I’m Ade Sellars, and I’m a gardener, presenter, writer and content producer, with a passion for growing my own food in my kitchen garden. As well as running my own gardening business, I write for magazines, produce tailored video content for gardening brands, flower shows and outdoor events and I regularly deliver talks and demonstrations around the country.
I co-write the award-winning gardening and food blog, Agents of Field, with my wife Sophie; you can follow our adventures on Twitter and Instagram, or by subscribing to our blog.