June here already with the longest day looming! The year is flying on, and there are gardening jobs a’plenty to keep us from dwelling on all the strange difficulties of the past three months.
Let’s tackle things like dealing with whitefly, planting out the tender perennials, and removing excess weed from the pond. (If you love roses as much as I do, please join me this morning live on our Facebook page at 9.30am (the3growbags.com), I want to show you my favourites. Facebook isn’t for everyone but believe me it’s not too a tricky proposition if I can manage it!)
Getting out and about
Not something any of us have been able to do much of recently, of course, though I’m actually talking about your tender veg and ornamental plants! Now it’s June, they can all be planted out into their allotted spaces for the Great British Summer.
You may have done much of this work already if you live in the south of the country, because we have had weeks and weeks of dry, unexpectedly warm weather – in Eastbourne, I certainly stopped bringing my tender plants under cover at night for almost a month ago now.
All the summer bedding plants can go out now, so clear away the last of the spring bedding to make way for them. And you can position your fancy stuff as well – cannas, palms, bananas, tobacco plants, coleus, begonias (like the gorgeous ‘Glowing Embers’ in the feature photo): these all like a lovely warm soil temperature, so it’s much better to delay this planting-out process. Give them plenty of water and feed to encourage them to start zooming! If you have a drier area to plant up, then this is also the time to put out things like aeoniums, proteas and agaves there.
On the subject of planting out, it’s definitely time to do the same with your tomato plants too, whether they are going into the veg patch, grow-bags or outdoor pots. A good tip here is to plant each one more deeply than it was before – cover the roots and stem with soil right up to the lowest leaves.
This is to encourage more roots to form on the stem creating a stronger, healthier and more firmly-anchored plant. Don’t forget to put in canes to tie the stems into, as they grow. Pinch out the side shoots of tomato plants that grow on a single stem (cordon) – you can even use these sideshoots as easily-rooted cuttings to make MORE tomato plants! Start to feed with a high-potash fertiliser (Tomorite, etc.) once the first flowers have been set.
Primping the pond
Like everything else in the garden, pondweed is growing like nobody’s business, and can clog things up rather. To keep a good ecological balance in the pond, you do need SOME water-plants (water-lilies, arrowhead (Sagittaria sagittifolia) etc., marginal plants (water-iris, kingcups, reedmace…, and oxygenators (hornwort, elodea etc.) but they can get very excitable at this time of year and start overwhelming the available pond space. In my pond, my three personal battles are with hornwort, Nuphar, and Iris pseudacorus – so pretty but so invasive….!
So do a bit of judicious scooping-out of the most rampant things, snipping back stems beneath the water, or yank out some roots if you can. Try to reduce marginals by uprooting unwanted plants but be extremely careful with tools if you have a pond-liner that may get damaged. In hot weather, patches of slimy blanketweed may develop, which you can usually pull out by winding the strands round a stick or a cane. Try to do it a little at a time though, because pond wildlife can become caught up in the middle of it.
Leave any debris that you hoik out, on the side of the pond for a day or two to let any watery pond critters amongst it, creep into the water again.
Keep the water topped up in hot weather, and if it has to be by using a hosepipe rather a water-butt, at least try to let the water trickle bubbles into the pond to introduce some more welcome oxygen for the pondlife.
Walloping the whitefly etc.
Whitefly can be a real nuisance in a greenhouse sucking the sap from soft tissue under the leaves, and causing plants to distort and wilt. Adult whitefly can each lay hundreds of eggs during the few short weeks of midsummer.
You can control them by spraying them with fatty acid sprays or soaps which block the pores on the leaves. Or you could buy a biological control – for instance, parasitic wasps Encarsia formosa which apparently do a very good job though I haven’t used them myself.
It might have been beginner’s luck, but I found that companion planting REALLY worked in my new greenhouse last summer – I put pots of Tagetes (French marigolds) and mint in there amongst all my tomato plants, chillies, cucumbers etc. and made sure to brush my hand over them every day to release their scent that these pests loathe!
If aphids (blackfly, greenfly, whitefly, pinkfly (!)….) are beginning to appear on your garden roses etc., try to steer clear of sprays that may harm their natural enemies as well – hoverfly larvae, lacewing larvae, ladybirds etc. You do have to be vigilant because aphid numbers can build up rapidly at this time. Encourage birds into your garden; stroke off small aphid colonies with your hands, or jet them off with a squirt from a hosepipe.
If you feel that you must use a spray, go for the ones based on natural compounds like natural pyrethrum (eg Bug Clear Gun), plant oils (eg Vitax Plant Guard Pest & Disease Control) or fatty acids (eg. Blackfly Killer, Universal Bug Killer etc.)
Other things you can do: use a weak soap and water solution and wipe down the affected leaves and stems. Or even dust the infested area with flour (now that you can find it in the shops again!) – wipe the flour on with your hands, the aphids eat it and get too constipated to make babies – an unfortunate end…………………….
- You can still sow lots of lovely things like Cosmos, marigolds, nigella etc. to flower a little later in the summer. And don’t forget to repeat-sow all your salad crops too.
- A greenhouse can get awfully hot quickly at this time of year – make sure shading is in place, keep the ventilation good, and sluice down the floor with water to bring the temperature down.
- This is a good time to take cuttings of cacti, like the attractive Christmas cacti. Leave the cuttings a day or two for the cut end to callous over before inserting them into gritty compost.
NB: Not only am I talking about my roses on Facebook this morning (Saturday 30 May), Laura is ‘Live’ on Instagram (the3growbags) walking around her veg patch at 10am tomorrow (Sunday 31 May). She’d love you to join her. In the meantime click on the DYO4C Veg Patch Update below for more veg chat and that all important elderflower recipe. What a weekend we’re having!
More NB: If you’d like a bit more gardening chit-chat from the3growbags, just enter your email address here, we’ll send you a new post every Saturday..