Flaming June, and it’s National Afternoon Tea Week, so let’s celebrate both this weekend! We’ll have a delicious cuppa and a scone with friends and family in a flowery corner of the garden…..aaaahhh….
But hang on. There are some jobs that we need to do first. We want to keep the display going right on through the summer months. I’m thinking of tasks like trimming evergreens, taking and potting on cuttings and arranging some companion planting…
Friends and companions
There is a strong school of thought, which really rates ‘Companion Planting’ as a brilliant idea. This is when you grow ostensibly very different plants close to one another, with the qualities of one helping the growth of another.
Very often it is a case of the scent of one sort of plant deterring the insects that attack another. So, French marigolds amongst the tomatoes to deter aphids, chives amongst sunflowers, garlic amongst roses, spring onions among carrots to deter carrot root fly, etc.. Once you’ve planted them, a good tip is to brush over them every few days to release more of their aroma.
Apparently, if you plant leeks among carrots, the smell of the leeks will deter carrot root fly, and the smell of the carrots will deter leek moths – how cool is that!!
Also, I read recently that if your crops are bothered by rabbits, you can plant onions, chives or garlic around the crop they are munching on, and they won’t cross them to get to the goodies they fancy! Garlic planted near the roses will put off the greenfly, I’m told, though I usually rely on the birds to do that job for me here.
Most of the unwanted insects hate mint, but do be careful to keep that confined to a pot, or it will be everywhere as soon as your back is turned. I keep pots of this in the greenhouse, along with the French marigolds (Tagetes) and haven’t seen a whitefly in there yet. Many other herbs such as sage, chervil and coriander will do the same job, I believe.
Then there are the easy annuals such as nasturtiums (so beloved by Caroline!) that you can sacrifice to blackfly, aphids or cabbage white butterflies to save such crops as broad beans, runner beans and cabbages. Another idea is to plan to plant tall crops such as peas and sweetcorn where they will shade crops which are prone to bolting in strong sunshine, like lettuce or spinach.
And the best thing of all is that we are helping our plants in a lovely natural way, rather than piling on the chemicals! By the way, there are lots more tips like this in our little book about vegetable-growing available in our online shop – do take a look.
If you’ve got some pelargoniums growing strongly now, how about taking some cuttings of them to save money on new plants?
– they root easily, often within a month. Here’s how:
- Take your cuttings in the morning when the stems are plumptiously full of water.
- Each cutting should have any flower buds taken off, be 4-5 leaf nodes long, and be cut just below the bottom leaf joint.
- Take off the lower leaves of each cutting and then tuck them into a pot of multi-purpose peat-free compost to just below half their length.
- Water them, and keep them moist but never wet in a warm light place. BOOM! You’ll see when they have rooted because they will show new growth and sparkle.
Once they are rooted nicely, keep potting them on – some of them may even give you flowers by the end of this summer, and be fabulous next summer!
Go on, have a go – what have you got to lose?
Do keep sowing lettuces, radishes, beetroot and spring onions to keep your supply of salads going until right into the autumn – I’m just off to do some more of this successional sowing right now…..
This is a good time to trim up evergreens that have been clipped to a shape (Laura, it’s the moment to sort out that Triceratops and get him looking spruce again!). If you don’t, you will find that they can get leggy with sparse foliage. Don’t cut back further than this year’s growth. A sheet round the base is handy to collect the clippings. I find that there is always another burst of growth after this June clipping, but the shape should remain much ‘finer’ and neater. By the way, if you fancy seeing Laura getting started on her topiary dinosaur, she made a little video of it – link is at the end.
Wow, the clematis are good this year, after all the rain we’ve had recently! Our feature pic is Clematis ‘Etoile Violette’ and Louise has a super piece on it as one of her ‘great plants of the month’ – link is at the end. They are never cheap, but you can take leaf-bud cuttings from any clematis: cut off a 10-12 cm shoot halfway between two sets of leaves (the fancy name is an ‘internodal cutting’), chuck away the soft growing tip, and tuck your cuttings round the edge of a pot of really gritty compost.
Water the pot and put it in a tray with a clear lid, or with a clear plastic bag fixed over it. Water once a week until you can tell they’ve rooted by seeing strong new growth at the leaf-axil, and you can then pot them up separately to grow on.
I took a walk around my clematis this week – you can see the short video of it here.
The link to Louise’s piece about Clematis ‘Etoile Violette’ is here.
And this is the link to ‘Laura and the Triceratops’!
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