It’s all going pretty well up till now, as far as the garden goes. A spectacularly hot May, at least here in the south, has brought flowers a-plenty, and Caroline tells me that northern gardens are shaping up nicely too. Welcome rain is now wetting parched soil here, so with less stressed plants, we can get on with some jobs like cutting back geraniums, thinning fruit and dividing irises………………
What a ridiculously handy species the hardy geraniums are! Their range is enormous – from the neat little alpine types like G. cinereum to 3ft.beauties like G. psilostemon and ‘Patricia’. You can find suitable varieties for every situation in the garden – G. sanguineum likes plenty of sun and sharp drainage, G. phaeum is much happier in semi-shade, and G. nodosum will grow and flower in almost total shade. And G. ‘Roseanne’ (as in the feature pic) is fabulous almost anywhere at any time!
There are very few geraniums whose invasiveness becomes a problem, most will cover the ground prettily beneath and around all manner of other plants, blending with soft colour schemes in an artless and informal way.
They are basically early-summer flowerers and can look rather untidy once they have finished blooming but you can do something about that.
As long as you don’t feel you have to leave them until the very last flower has finished blooming right at the top of each stem, you can shear them off now to rejuvenate them. Cut off all of the top growth, leaves and all, right now. Give the roots a good drink of water, and perhaps a bit of fertiliser for encouragement, and you should get a good new crop of healthy foliage within about three weeks. You may well get another flush of flowers later on in the summer as well.
I do this chopping down with pulmonarias too; lupins and oriental poppies look a right mess in the border after flowering so I take the secateurs to them as well. You have to be very stalwart to be a plant in my garden, especially if you have a scruffy finish……………………
You may think that your seed-sowing is done for 2020, but it doesn’t have to be the case! You can STILL sow courgette or squash seeds to have a late harvest this autumn, for instance. Sowing oriental leaves like Chinese cabbage, Pak Choi or mizuna now is often better than earlier in the year, because they are less likely to bolt (run up to flower and seed) in mid-summer weather.
Keep sowing little batches of salads like lettuce, radishes and rocket in spare pockets the veg patch (‘catch’ crops). Later sowing of carrots seem less likely to attract the carrot root flies.
And don’t forget flowers too. Start off some seeds for winter bedding like pansies and violas, as well as some biennials like wallflowers, foxgloves, honesty, Iceland poppies, sweet Williams and verbascum. You can plant them into their flowering positions this autumn ready to bloom in 2021 – thereby saving you a fortune at the garden centre and giving you the warm satisfaction that grow-it-yourself brings you.
Isn’t it tempting to leave all of a wonderfully heavy-looking crop of apples or plums to ripen on the tree – it looks such a BOUNTY! But you really shouldn’t, because it can result in a harvest of small, disappointing fruit.
And the weird thing is that Nature seems to know this too, and there is a phenomenon called the ‘June Drop’ (which is not, as my sister Caroline might think, when the Pimms supply runs low in midsummer….). It happens when plenty of good spring weather encourages excellent pollination by insects, and far too many fruits start developing for the tree to maintain healthily. So it drops many of them off the tree when they are still small.
So don’t panic if you see dozens of little apples on the ground underneath your beloved apple tree – it’s just ‘being sensible’….
Sometimes it may not get rid of enough, though, and it’s a really good idea to go round the branches after the Drop, and thin the fruits to one per cluster; you can pull off any poorly-formed or damaged fruits at the same time. The ideal is to leave each fruit about 10 cm away from its neighbours – a healthy touch of ‘Social Distancing’ in fact, to enable each one to grow larger healthily and without putting undue strain on the tree.
Once they have finished flowering, dig up and divide iris corms, splitting off and discarding the oldest gnarly bits. Replant the other bits shallowly in fresh sunny soil. Trim the leaves to give the roots a chance to grow strong and anchor the plant during the rest of the summer.
What a price clematis can be! Try propagating some of your own using cuttings. Take off some long new shoots and cut them into 5 cm lengths between the leaf nodes. Put the pieces buried right up to the leaf-nodes into pots of gritty compost. Water and leave in a propagator or under polythene on a warm windowsill. They should root in 3-4 weeks.
Think about leaving at least a little of your lawn uncut until August, to allow a little more wildlife into an area that can be something of a ‘desert’ for our precious invertebrates, however impressive a smooth green sward can appear.
And on that note, please do take a look at Laura’s suggestions for veg that will provide food for pollinators in the ‘Veg Patch Update’ below, not to mention a recipe for deep fried courgette flowers and some adorable pictures of baby sparrows!
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