One of the joys of summer gardening is to be out there working early on a beautiful summer morning and ‘early’ for me means between five and six. With the sun shining and the birds singing this is a magical time which fills me with delight and probably fills the owls amongst you with horror. It is one way though of getting some extra work done at a busy time of the year …
Writing now in June, this is, above all, the time of the rose. I love roses and especially climbing roses which can give height and width to a floral display. My star attraction this year has been the climber ‘Sombreuil’ which has been a mass of brilliant white around our kitchen window and an adjoining trellis spreading for twenty feet or so. To get the best and longest display from roses you need to feed them in the spring with manure or a proprietary rose fertiliser and with another application of fertiliser in summer after the first flush of flowers has faded. Keep them generously watered and, once they are in flower, regularly dead-headed. As with most roses some climbers flower only once a year with a massed effect while others will repeat so it is worth checking the catalogue to get the variety you want (Sombreuil repeats well).
If you are a vegetable gardener this will be the most rewarding time when there is plenty to harvest and not a lot of work to be done except keeping the weeds under control and watering in a dry spell. You can still get a return from a sowing of lettuce in July. If you have more vegetables than you cope with at any one time make good use of the freezer and spread some goodwill by sharing with a neighbour. This is also the time for soft fruit. Raspberries can be spoiled by the maggots of raspberry beetles and the only way of dealing with this is by spraying the fruit when the berries show the first signs of turning pink. You then have to wait for the time indicated by the manufacturer before eating the berries. This may mean losing a few that get overripe before you can use them but that is much better than having the whole crop spoiled. Plums can also suffer from maggots in the fruit and a defence against this is available in pheromone traps which catch the problem moths on a sticky pad before they lay eggs in the plums (From Agralan Ltd). It’s too late to use a trap this year though as it needs to be in position by May. Most berry fruit and plums freeze well so any fruit surplus is easily dealt with. The exception is strawberries which don’t freeze well and , in a thawed state, are very different from the original. They are still good for jellies and coulis though.
Warfare continues in the garden. The slugs and snails are less in evidence this year with damage in some parts of the garden although not in others but nothing like as bad as last year. Currently bindweed is my biggest problem. Last year I carried out a major offensive in the fruit cage where the fruit was exhausted and the bind weed was gaining control. I took the fruit cage down, dug up all the fruit canes and bushes and dug over the whole area; removing every bit of bindweed root I could find. I have now replanted this area with flowers and vegetables divided by an extension of an existing rustic trellis. In the vegetable area I have grown a new line of raspberry canes, which will be fruiting for the first time this yea, together with a redcurrant bush and two blackcurrants which I transplanted. I also have a problem with pink field bindweed in the front garden. Here again, the only proper solution is to dig everything up over the whole area and start again but I can’t face doing that so I continue with weeding and the judicious application of weedkiller where this can be done without touching other plants.
The Biddenham Show will be held on 10th September this year so August will be the time to start thinking about what produce you can enter for the flower, fruit and vegetable classes. No specialist techniques are required and judging is carried out on the basis of what can be expected from normal garden production. That means that everyone with a garden can think about entering something and, as some cups are awarded on a points basis, that means that the more you enter the more chance you have of winning something. A marquee filled with lots of entries is also one of the big attractions of the Show.