Head Gardener Sallie is here to give you some top tips this June, which may come in handy for those of you getting involved in our new fundraising event, Grow to Give, this summer!
When May turns the corner into June the ‘all clear’ is given for getting the most tender plants outside. From the nicotiana and tomatoes, to the chillies and dahlias, all the seedlings you have sown to fill out the borders can take up their places. Interplant vegetables with flowering companion plants to put on a spectacular floral show over the summer whilst producing food too. The architectural dusty dark green Cavelo de nero kale look perfect against the shocking pink of Cleome, underplanted with Tagetes ‘Burning Embers’ or cinnabar. Play with combinations and have some fun, the results may surprise you!
Don’t forget to give them a ‘go between’ stage first though. A few days in a sheltered spot outside, called ‘hardening off’, helps seedling toughen up a bit, getting them better prepared for growing in rollercoasting weather extremes. Cold nights, or on the opposite pole, scorching sun can both damage tender leaves.
This small step will give you time to prepare the soil for optimizing plant growth. Does your soil need grit for improved drainage or home compost for added goodness plus water retention? Get ready a collection of stakes for plant supports. Birch twigs make excellent pea sticks, or for rambling plants such as clematis or beans. Dry willow is great for supporting herbaceous plants, so try making circular supports or hurdles for along pathways. Hazel twigs are perfect for strong wigwam supports for runner beans, gourds, and heavier climbers and all give aesthetic natural structure to any planting scheme. I have used dried shrub cuttings of a variety of plants just to prop up herbaceous plants as they grow. Experiment with what you have to hand.
As the days progress into the summer and the longest day on June 21st give optimum light (17.5 hours of daylight in Glasgow), the conditions are ideal for plant growth. Just keep up the watering as needed and just the right amount of fertilizer (read the labels) for the hungry plants to keep them strong. This will help them to repel aphid attacks and plant pathogens. A strong and healthy plant can see off most beasties and ills, but weak and stressed plants easily succumb. My top tip is to use a liquid organic seaweed feed in a mist sprayer, which I lightly spray over the leaves in the early morning or evening when the sun is low and cannot scorch the leaves. It is taken up quickly by the plant and builds healthy leaf growth.
Flowers have started to bloom early this year and if you have not begun deadheading do so now. Clipping the flowers before they set seed will ensure bulbs will continue to flourish year on year and naturalise, herbaceous plants will continue to bloom for longer and plant growth is diverted into making flowers not seeds. Try to trim flowers down to the end of their flower stalks and it will look like they have not been touched, much better to the eye than a stalk with no flourish at the end of it! At the Glasgow Horatio’s Garden we have finished deadheading the tulips & narcissi and are well into trimming the flowers of the Erysimum Bowles Mauve, Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’ and will be at the ready for the geraniums, cosmos, penstemon and salvias in turn.
An alternative you might like to try is to cut back the flower stalks totally, often known as the Chelsea Chop in May, but works a bit later in Scotland. I tried it on the Nepeta last year and it worked well, so, just about the second week in June that will be done again to prolong the flowering period well into September. Sometimes it pays to be experimental and test the theories! After all, we’re due an Indian summer this year…I wonder how long we can keep the flowering going?! On that note, I’m off to seek out some direct sowings of calendula, nigella, nasturtium and sunflowers, then to feed the Dahlias as they always manage to put on a late show!
Finally, as time moves on thoughts will turn to seed collecting and decided when the time is right to let things just grow and flourish, set seed heads and build growth for the final display of dried structure that will give interest well into winter and provide a haven for wildlife, provide food for the birds and self-seed in preparation for another year in the garden.