This Month in the Garden – June 2016

TMITG_ds1Where has all the wild life gone ?  One of the big attractions of a garden is to provide food and shelter for birds and animals, insects and pond life so that we can do them a good turn and enjoy their comings and goings. We have been gardening here for nearly forty years and when we came the garden was full of bird song. Now the dawn chorus is more like a quartet than a full orchestra. Our bird feeder is rarely visited ( though I did see blue tit on it this morning) and I haven’t seen or heard a chaffinch, dunnock or greenfinch at all this year. The sound of a cuckoo is  a distant memory around here, although I did hear one when we were away near Malvern last week.. Our pond used to have plenty of frogspawn and I remember little frogs leaping all over the place. Now we have no frogs and I haven’t seen the newts this year. What we do have though is midwife toads living in one of the greenhouses and plenty of their tadpoles in the water; they can be a mixed blessing of course if they get too noisy. I grow plants that are supposed to be attractive to butterflies but I rarely see more than a solitary butterfly nowadays. Squirrels used to be a common sight, but no longer and I haven’t encountered a hedgehog for ages. It would be some compensation if the slugs and snails had joined the exodus but no such luck.

And now we need to turn our minds to the things in the garden over which we do have some control. There will always be some new things to do in June, like setting out bedding plants or making successional sowings of salad crops and some other vegetables but, by and large  the propagating and planting will have been done by now and the main jobs will be maintenance. The plants that you want will be growing well now but so will the ones you don’t want and the more you can keep on top of weeding the easier it is. Where there is room between plants or vegetables hoeing is the quickest way, especially if the weeds are only seedlings. Otherwise loosening weeds with a hand fork before pulling them up will be needed. Put weeds in the green bin rather than composting them because the seeds may not be killed in garden compost.

Keep watering as needed. Plants in containers or hanging baskets will need watering every day plus a dose of liquid feed according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Newly planted trees and shrubs will want a good watering every week and roses benefit from the same treatment. The vegetable patch will need watering when the soil looks dry and that applies particularly to salad crops, tomatoes, courgettes and cucumbers, especially if under glass.

Keep an eye on herbaceous plants that need support. It is always best to put supports in before the plant needs them but better late than never. Climbers , such as clematis and sweet peas should be tied in to their supports as they grow; use green twine or plastic twist ties. Reels of plastic twist are better value than small packets of pre-cut twists. Dead-heading, particularly of annuals and roses will be an on-going job. The effort is repaid by better looking plants and more flowers. The main attention for the lawn will be cutting the grass and keeping the edges tidy with long-handled shears. Mow the lawn at least once a week and don’t cut it too close; a bit of height makes the lawn look greener and the grass grows better.

Above all June should be the time for enjoying the garden; sitting in it, looking at it and savouring it. I have just seen a long-range forecast from the met office and they are expecting good things. Long-range forecasts are often rather suspect but we can hope for the best. We got our BBQ out only once last year but I trust we shall manage better than that this summer.

Jeremy Arthern

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