Warm weather means surging weeds, unless steps are taken, and hungry plants that need feeding, but also the opportunity to plant pizza-topping containers and sow sweetcorn and other sensitive crops.
In early summer, gardeners brace themselves for the worst of weed growth. Strategic use of mulches can prevent weeds while frequent hoeing of small weeds is very effective at preventing later problems. Noxious perennial weeds such as ground elder and couch grass can be carefully dug out before they become large and resistant clumps. As garden plants grow and expand, they shade out the weeds so weeding becomes much less irksome as summer goes on.
Now that summer is here, plant out tender vegetables such as aubergines, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes and sweetcorn. They have much growing to do before September but adding fertiliser to where they are to grow – and watering the ground the day before planting – gets them well started. Covering with cloche or fleece helps them grow well, at least initially until they outgrow their protection. Until the end of June, the nights can be quite chilly.
Fun ideas for containers include growing pizza toppings. Tomatoes, oregano or marjoram plants, basil seeds and garlic bulbs, using large supermarket bulbs, can be planted. Other plants you could add include chard, sweet or chilli peppers, rocket and spinach. Choose a container 45 to 60cm wide filled with multi-purpose peat-free potting compost. Water well after planting and place in a sunny spot. By late summer you should be able to gather the ingredients to top your pizza.
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With so much gardening going on in May, it is easy to neglect wildlife. Sow nectar-rich plants including wild flowers and quick growing garden annuals in any bare spots. Include nectar-rich bedding plants such as cosmos and single-flowered dahlias. Provide water for birds and also food as they are still feeding their fledglings. Unfortunately, soft fruit requires protection from birds. Consider using insect-proof mesh, which is much safer for birds than netting.
Plant growth accelerates in June and plants can benefit from extra feeding. In the vegetable garden; sprinkle fertiliser around plants that need feeding such as beetroot, cabbages and runner beans. Be ready to feed asparagus when cropping finishes in a week or two’s time. Most importantly, containers appreciate liquid fertiliser every fortnight in the summer as do houseplants. Use balanced feed until mid-summer, then switch to potassium-rich tomato fertiliser. Seaweed fertiliser is an effective organic feed.
Guy Barter is chief horticultural adviser for the Royal Horticultural Society (@GuyBarter).
The Royal Horticultural Society is a charity working to share the best in gardening and make the UK a greener place. Find out more at rhs.org.uk