1 June 2024

Head Gardeners’ tips
June 2024

Amy Moffett - Head Gardener, Stoke Mandeville

June brings us towards the middle of the year with the longest day towards the end of this month, bringing with it lovely long, warm evenings, and hopefully lots of sunshine!

Many of the plants in our gardens are reaching their peaks of growth for the season and our gardens are looking full of life and colour.

It’s time to get out there and make sure all the plants that need staking or supporting have been taken care of. If you don’t do it now, it will be much more difficult to do it later. This includes delphiniums, perovskia, hollyhocks, some dahlias, and basically anything tall or bushy that looks like it can do with some help. There are various ways to support plants, from tying to canes with twine, to growing plants through grid supports. Whichever method you choose, try to hide the support system and tie the plants carefully for a more natural look.

In Horatio’s Garden Stoke Mandeville, we are starting to get excited about enjoying the fruits from our tomato plants – is there anything better than the sweet taste of a freshly picked homegrown tomato?! Patients have been enjoying sowing tomato seeds from any salad tomato they have enjoyed eating, and as a result we are surrounded by a variety of tomato plants all at different stages of their growth. We’ve been preparing some of the outdoor containers (positioned in a sunny location) ready to plant them out this month, while others will stay in the glasshouse, for comparison, or back-up. They’ll receive an organic liquid tomato feed every week as soon as they have set their first truss of flowers, and we’ll make sure we keep removing any side shoots to keep them in order. We’ll also support them with strings tied to a frame above them, which we’ll wind the new growth around as it develops. One of my favourite things about gardening is the amazing smell of working with tomatoes – there’s nothing else quite like it!

Did you know that you can grow tomatoes quite easily from cuttings? Just pop the side shoots that you remove into some pots of well drained compost and keep moist until they root. Alternatively you can put them into a jar of water and watch them develop roots before potting them on. This is a great way of bulking up your supplies or skipping the germination stage if you haven’t sown any seed yet and have access to someone else’s side shoots! Can you ever have too many tomatoes?!

Don’t forget, it’s easy to save the seed of the tomatoes that you love. Just pop a few of the seeds into a sieve and give them a rinse, then dry them on a piece of kitchen towel. They can be stored like this (stuck on the kitchen towel) or put into paper envelopes, ready to sow next year. This is a great way of saving money on seed, being more self-sufficient, and making sure you keep growing the varieties that you really enjoy. But don’t forget to label them!

Now we’re in the flow of summer, it’s important to talk about watering. There are lots of ways you can try to save water and do your bit for the environment. Firstly – timing; it’s best to water in the early mornings or evenings to make the most of the amount of water being taken up by the plant; watering in the heat of the day means that a lot of it is lost to evaporation. Each time you water, try to water thoroughly so that the soil (and therefore the roots) are completely soaked. It is better to water thoroughly and less often, than to water too lightly several times. Watering too lightly can actually cause a lot of stress to the plant as all of the roots are not receiving water, and it can waste water as it will be evaporating from the surface of the pot.

For plants that need a lot of water (larger plants or plants with large leaves tend to need more), make sure that you put a saucer underneath the pot to catch any excess water. For smaller pots it’s great to water them from below; filling a tray or saucer below the plants with water and allowing the pots to soak up the water through capillary action. This ensures that the water is getting to exactly where it is needed – the roots. Don’t let young plants and seedlings sit in water for too long though as this may cause them to rot. Ideally, plants should have a good soak and then be allowed to drain freely, drying out to a certain extent before the next watering.

Established plants growing in borders shouldn’t need to be watered, only newly planted specimens or vegetables should be prioritised. If you find that your border plants are needing a lot of water, it might be an unsustainable choice of plant for that location. The right plant in the right place is key to a successful garden; if you choose wisely you will be richly rewarded with less maintenance. Looking after your soil is also crucial to the sustainability of your garden. Making sure you have lots of organic matter incorporated will keep more moisture and nutrients available for your plants. Try to mulch the whole garden every autumn or winter, or add a small amount to the planting hole each time you add a new plant. Planting between autumn and spring means plants will have a better chance of establishing a good root system before the warmer drier season, and therefore need less watering. I appreciate this takes some planning and isn’t easy to keep to when we see plants that we love in the garden centre!

Collecting rainwater from your roof, even if it’s from a small shed roof, can have a great impact on reducing the amount of mains water you use in the garden. Mains water can be expensive if you’re on a meter, but also requires much more energy to process and deliver to our houses than rainwater, which is freely available. Rain will also be better type of water to use for your plants as it won’t contain limescale and excessive minerals.

Finally, try not to get too hung up on keeping a lush green lawn! If we have a hot dry summer, it can take an enormous amount of water to keep the lawn looking good and fresh. Consider allowing part of it to grow wild and see how many wildflower species become established without you making any effort at all. You can of course add wildflower seed to help it along or to encourage particular species that you’re fond of. Wildflowers have such an enormous benefit for the environment; they support all sorts of wildlife (some of which are endangered), they look beautiful, they develop deep roots which benefit the soil structure and they require much less water than a tightly mown lawn. Most importantly, leaving the mower in the shed means more time to relax in the garden and enjoy the benefits of being amongst, and supporting, nature.

Share this:

Keep in touch

Sign-up to hear the latest news and activities from Horatio’s Garden

By completing this form, you confirm that you are aged 18 years or over and that you are happy to receive emails from Horatio’s Garden in accordance with our Privacy Policy. We will never share your details with anyone else without your express permission.

Shopping cart0
There are no products in the cart!
Continue shopping