Here we are in the fabulous month of June, and everything is busting out all over! Still jobs to do, though, such as pruning the early-flowering shrubs, tidying-up the pond, and sowing some winter bedding, and here’s how:
PRUNING FOR PERFECTION
We’ve enjoyed all the lovely early-flowering shrubs – Philadelphus, Forsythia, Syringa (lilac), Kerria, Weigela, etc. and this is the perfect time to sort them out, improving their shape and encouraging them to make strong new growth which will carry next year’s blossom. Try to avoid making little snips all over the plant which will result in new shoots sprouting out like starfish from the cuts and spoil the shape of the shrub.
Take out any stems that are dead, diseased or very weak, right at their base, first of all. Then cut out up to about 20 per cent of the oldest stems again right at the base. Give the plant a good water and feed, and it will grow away feeling all happy and refreshed.
SORTING OUT THE POND
A pond is the most wonderful thing to have in the garden for attracting wildlife of all kinds, but I reckon that if you turn your back on it for more than about five minutes, it will find some new way to look like a swampy mess! If by any chance it’s not just me that has problems, spend a bit of time now tidying things up a bit.
Top up the water that has been lost through evaporation – with rainwater from a butt if possible, but otherwise tap water, adding it to the pond in small amounts. With the sun warming the water, algae is happily proliferating, and blanketweed looks horrible sitting in the water in a slimy heap. I tend to scoop as much out with my hand as possible, and then twirl a bamboo cane in it to pick up the filaments. Do be careful though – I have to make sure tadpoles and things aren’t entangled in it as well! Always make sure any blanketweed, duckweed or decaying vegetation that you’ve pulled out is left on the side of the pond for 24 hours so that the water-snails and other tiny creatures can creep back into the water.
I expect you’ve put some oxygenating plants into the water to keep it clear and sweet, but they can go mad! Haul plants such as hornwort out once they have filled more than a third of the pond.
SOWING WINTER BEDDING
Are you running out of ideas for seeds to sow? Well, here’s an idea: how about getting some winter and spring bedding plants on the go now, while you can still remember how expensive it was to buy them all in from the garden centre. I’m thinking of things like polyanthus, wallflowers, Bellis and pansies, which you can sow into modules of damp compost now for an early germination. Cover with a thin layer of vermiculite, and keep in a light warm place. They should germinate quickly but do take care that the plants don’t get scorched if they are under glass – they’ll need to be shaded and kept as cool as you can manage if they are to turn into strong little plants by autumn. A bit of high-potash liquid feed could be handy.
* Shear back those sweet early geraniums right to the base after they’ve flowered, and before they look a mess. They will soon grow lots of fresh new leaves, and maybe a second lesser crop of flowers. Do the same with oriental poppies which look a total fright after they have done their thing.
* I grow lots and lots of daylilies (Hemerocallis) because I adore them, but sometimes I come across disfigured buds – they go all fat and corky, and shorter than normal (doesn’t that sound delightful!) This is caused by the Hemerocallis Gall Midge and these buds will never open. There is nothing much you can do about it, so just snap the buds off (they make a satisfying ‘pop’!) and dispose of them.
* Keep sowing lots of salad things – with plenty of water and the warmth of June, they’ll grow quickly and be all the juicier and tenderer for it.