The somewhat unseasonable weather of the past month has led to an abundance of green growth in gardens everywhere, which prompted Head Gardener Amy to offer a few of her top tips as to how to make the most of every thriving new shoot!
After the deluge of rain we’ve had throughout the month of May let’s hope we can look forward to a sunny June ahead with lots of summer sunshine! The rain has of course meant that our gardens are looking very lush and verdant which is a great thing after such a dry beginning of spring. However, this rich new growth means the weeds will be growing well too. Try not to be too overzealous with weeding your garden though, as many wildflowers are beneficial for a variety of insects including bees, butterflies, beetles and other pollinators.
If you can, try to leave a corner (or more!) of your garden to run wild and create a space that is especially for attracting a variety of wildlife. You can manage this as much or as little as you like. Each time you prune a shrub or tree in your garden, you could add a few pieces of the wood, branches, leaves and twigs to the wild area to encourage even more beneficial creatures into your garden. These may include toads that would take shelter over the summer in a cool damp pile of logs (great for controlling slugs), and maybe even hedgehogs! A good range of deadwood types will also encourage a variety of fungi in the autumn which is always a bonus! There are lots of ideas online for getting creative with making habitats for wildlife, and it’s a wonderful thing to observe and monitor which new species of wildlife you will encourage into your garden.
If you prefer a tidier look to your garden, there are plenty of choices for plants to add that are beneficial to wildlife, including foxgloves, sunflowers, salvias, sweet peas, cosmos and marigolds, all of which can also be grown in containers if you’re limited for space. Remember – variety is the spice of life – so try to grow a range of plants for the greatest wildlife benefit. This will in turn promote a healthier garden with fewer pests and diseases. Avoid using any chemicals in your garden this will only have a negative impact on wildlife.
Keep bird baths clean and topped up with fresh water and don’t forget to disinfect your bird feeders regularly. If you grow roses in your garden, try not to get too carried away with dead-heading; leave some to nourish birds and small mammals later in the season.
Now is a good time to get out and put up your plant supports while you still can. Some plants like delphiniums, dahlias, peonies and hollyhocks will benefit from the ring style supports and it’s much easier to put these up before the plants grow too big. It looks much more natural if the plants are allowed to grow up through the supports rather than trying to support them once they have started to flop over. Taller more streamline plants like sunflowers, gladiolus, Asiatic lilies and bearded irises might benefit from a bamboo cane support which can be carefully hidden behind the plant stem and tied to it with some natural twine.
Finally in the vegetable garden, it’s time to plant out courgettes, tomatoes, aubergines and pretty much everything else. Harden things off gradually by putting them somewhere sheltered first while they acclimatise, and then give them a regular seaweed feed throughout the season to keep them growing strong. Once the fruit starts to set, start to feed with a regular weekly organic tomato feed too. I’m a great fan of mixing edibles with ornamental plants, and this year at Horatio’s Garden in Stoke Mandeville we will be doing just that in our seasonal container displays.
June brings with it the longest hours of daylight and plant growth really accelerates as a response. Don’t forget to spend some time just looking at and enjoying your garden as it changes each day; perhaps try taking a closer look at things through a magnifying glass and discover a weird and wonderful new world!
Here’s hoping the sunshine will soon be here to stay and that we can all spend even more time outside enjoying the summer delights of the natural world.