What a wonderful time of year this is! The longest day is around the corner and summer is beckoning us on. It’s no hardship to be out in the garden pottering and here are some of the jobs you could be doing:
YOU AND EUPHORBIAS
Euphorbias have been delighting us through the spring with their zingy flowers, but it’s time now to cut off the flowered stems right down to the bottom. This will encourage the lovely glaucous foliage to expand and ripen ready to carry the flowers next spring. Please, please use gloves for this job, even if you don’t normally wear them – these plants exude a milky sap that can be nastily irritant on your skin.
KEEPING THE ROSES GOING
How fab have the roses been so far this year? Even the ones that have been a bit lackadaisical about flowering in some years, are starting to bloom their socks off. It must be all that endless terrible rain we had earlier! Taking off the faded flowers will keep the buds opening on the roses that will repeat-flower as well as making the bush look prettier. Once a cluster of flowers has drooped, cut off the whole twig back down to a full leaflet.
There are a couple of scenarios in which you shouldn’t dead-head: the first is when it is a once-flowering rambler rose – there is no point in taking individual flowers off these, some of which are glorious monsters! Once they have finished their display, the best approach is to take out the whole flowered stems (if you can!) and tie in the new shoots coming from the base.
The other time you don’t dead-head is when the rose-hips are going to be gorgeous. These are mostly the species roses – Rosa rugosa, Rosa glauca, Rosa pimpernellifolia etc. – leave the dead flowers on and these will delight you (and the birds) all over again in the autumn when they are spangled with bright berries.
TENDING THE TOMATOES
Your tomato plants will be putting on plenty of growth now.
If you’re growing cordon (long, single-stem) tomatoes, as I do with my Gardener’s Delight, you will find that the plant will develop side-shoots above each leaf stalk. These will shade the fruit growing on the main stem, so pinch them off when you spot them, and having encouraged the stem upwards by tying it to a stake, pinch out the top of it once you have six trusses of fruit developing.
* It looks like we are going to have a million plums this year! Some will fall off, for sure (‘The June Drop’), but if we don’t want the branches to break, we must take off some more fruit as well (though it’s a bit heart-breaking to do it!) This will help the development of the remaining fruit too.
* This is a good moment to sow some biennials (sow one year, flower the next, then die or turn into short-lived perennials) – wallflowers, foxgloves, sweet williams etc. They will have time to grow into strong little plants by September when you can plant them out where you want them to flower next year.
* Keep going with the weeding! What do they say? ‘ One year’s weeds means seven year’s seeds!’ So every time you spot a weed, out with it, before it can multiply itself all over your precious flower-beds.
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