If you can, try watering your garden in the early morning and evening. During the hazy summer months your garden will make the most of that lovely moisture before it evaporates in the daytime heat. Be careful not to overwater as it can lead to root rot.
Ever tried growing vegetables in your garden? There are lots of lovely crops to grow even if you only have the tiniest of spaces. Or you can even grow a few edibles in the flower border as long as they're pretty enough. Plants like courgettes and patty pan squashes grow really fast and keep on cropping all summer long, as well as looking wildly exotic in the border.
June is the perfect time to plant out young plants that you've grown yourself or bought from the garden centre or nursery. Just think of all those ‘ratatouille' veg. Plant out courgettes, tomato plants, aubergines, runner beans and French beans. Don't forget that you'll need a wigwam of canes for the climbing beans to twine themselves around almost immediately – they grow that fast! You can sow beans straight into the ground now if you didn't get around to starting any off indoors. Simply drop a couple of beans into a 5cm (2in) deep hole at the base of each cane of the wigwam. Sweetcorn too can be sown straight into the ground but again allow a couple of ears per hole in case the wildlife help themselves to a snack.
Four Fabulous Tomatoes
Young tomato plants are readily available at garden centres and are great for growing indoors or out, in a pot on a balcony or cosseted in a greenhouse.
GARDENER'S DELIGHT is a long-standing favourite of mine. It's reliable and heavy cropping so although the tomatoes aren't the biggest, there are plenty of them and the flavour is divine.
TUMBLER is such a star for pots, containers and even hanging baskets with its compact, bushy, slightly trailing habit. And it produces plenty of tasty red toms for such a neat plant.
SUNGOLD is one of the sweetest tomatoes I've ever tasted. The small, orange-gold fruits are produced in abundance.
SWEET MILLION is a winner for kids with masses of small, sweet, cherry-sized, bright red fruits that children love. Like Tumbler, this variety grows well in growing bags and pots, which makes it ideal if you are short on space.
Bring in the Butterflies
Take some time this summer to see how many of the UK's 59 resident butterfly species you can spot. As well as these residents, there are 30 or so occasional migrants you might spot visiting from overseas. While some butterflies are local to very specific habitats such as chalk downland or coppiced woodland, many are happy to feed on the flowers we have on offer in our gardens. Having said that, you can do more to encourage butterflies into the garden by cutting down on pesticides and planting more native plants and single flowers which are easier for them to feed from. Look out for Peacock and Red Admiral butterflies, particularly on Buddleia later in the summer. Earlier on you might spot the distinctive Orange Tip, Meadow Brown or Tortoiseshell butterflies, especially on wild plants. The tiny Holly Blue is also relatively common although it's small and quick moving which makes it hard to spot. Kitchen gardeners will be familiar with Small and Large Cabbage White butterflies and I must confess to a love-hate relationship with them as their ravenous larvae have reduced my kale to stalks before. Most butterfly larvae aren't so destructive though, feeding on wild plants, nettles and thistles, which is a great excuse to leave a corner of the garden unkempt.
Carry on Composting
There is nothing better for keeping your soil healthy and productive than making your own compost. Gardeners always go on about their compost heaps and everyone has a slightly different way of doing things. I compost practically everything; weeds, spent compost, even tree leaves in the autumn. Even if you have a small garden I would say a compost heap is invaluable, it's a lot easier and cheaper than trying to get rid of green waste any other way and it's much more cost effective than buying in fertiliser for your garden. The best spot for a compost bin is a shady corner. As a general rule of thumb though, two bins is better than one and the bigger they are the better.
What to Compost
About half your heap should be green: weeds, grass clippings, and other vegetable waste. The other half should be brown stuff like dead leaves, wood chips and prunings. Remember to layer your mix. The books say go for 20cm (8in) layers but treat that as a guideline. Once you've got the mix right, the other crucial element to making good compost is regular turning, to speed up the decomposition process.You can turn it as often as you like, watering any dry spots as you go, but once every couple of months or so is ideal.
Plant out Pumpkins
If you didn’t sow your pumpkin seeds indoors as detailed in our spring
issue then not to worry. There’s still plenty of time to get growing, just
jump to step 3. This is a great way to get the kids involved in the garden
as the large fruit is clear for all to see. Just follow the steps below and
by Halloween you’ll have your very own pumpkins to carve.
Click the image to see the next steps for growing pumpkins.
Acclimatise your pumpkin plants to outdoor conditions by putting them out each day for about a week, bringing them indoors each night.
Plant into a warm, sunny spot with plenty of added compost or manure – I have seen pumpkins growing very happily in a dung heap at horse stables.
If you haven't already sown your seeds indoors, it's now possible to sow straight into the ground. Sow two or three seeds 2.5cm (1in) deep outdoors and cover with cloches, jars or plastic bottles. Leave these in place for two weeks, once the seedlings appear, then thin the seedlings to leave the strongest one. Check the seed packet for planting distances, as some are big growers, and keep them watered until the plants are established.
Once settled, they'll grow quickly and produce flowers and embryo pumpkins in no time. If you want really big pumpkins then ‘stop' the plants, snipping off the growing tip after two or three pumpkins have developed to allow these to get all the nutrients.
CHECK BACK IN OUR AUTUMN ISSUE FOR WHAT TO DO NEXT!