Some handy tips for the month ahead...
Grow Your Own
Keep Sowing Your Cut-And-Come-Again Salad Seeds
• Continue making successional, little and often sowings of all salad and quick-maturing crops to ensure a regular supply throughout the summer.
• In hot weather, leafy salad crops may do better when sown in partially shady sites. Hot, dry weather can lead to bitter tasting leaves. Lettuce is best sown in the cool of the evening rather than when the sun is shining.
Now Is The Time To Prune Your Plums And Cherries
• Wall-trained plums and cherries can be pruned this month. If pruned in winter or spring (while still dormant), they run the risk of getting silver leaf disease.
• Any branches growing out away from the wall should be removed entirely.
• Pinching out tender shoot tips, plus any side shoots coming from the main stems, will prevent the trees from putting on too much leafy growth, ensuring good fruit production.
Strawberries Need Pampering If You Want To Enjoy The Juiciest Of Fruits
• Water your strawberries regularly, especially those plants growing in pots and feed weekly with a high potash liquid feed.
• Watch out for slugs and birds, which love them as much as we do. The easiest way to deter birds is to cover plants with netting. Put straw around strawberry plants growing in the ground to prevent soil splashing on to the fruit and spoiling it. Strawberries grown through black plastic don't need strawing.
• If you need new strawberry plants, and providing your plants are healthy with no viruses, you can peg down the runners that develop on existing plants, to encourage them to root along the stem. Once rooted, the young plantlets can be severed from the runners and potted up individually and grown on ready for planting out in autumn.
• Pick over strawberries regularly, removing any fruit that has started to rot to prevent infection spreading to others.
Make Sure Your Hanging Baskets Are Well Prepared For Dazzling Displays
Make the most of your hanging baskets this year and ensure they provide a display to be proud of.
• Use controlled-release fertiliser and water-retention gel in the compost.
• Check that brackets will hold the weight, and use self-lowering brackets to make watering easier or install an automatic drip watering system.
• When making baskets, ensure you use fresh, good quality potting compost - old compost may have gone off and cause problems - and never use garden soil.
• Before planting up add some controlled-release fertiliser and water-retention gel to the compost. The fertiliser will help feed the plants all summer and the gel will prevent the compost drying out prematurely and so ensure strong, healthy growth and a colourful display.
Your Plants Need Water To Survive!
Frequent watering is essential - the aim should be to try and keep the compost evenly moist.
• If you forget to water regularly, you're away from home for most of the day or when you go away for weekends or holidays, watering becomes more of a problem, so install a drip watering system and a timer to do the watering for you.
• Baskets that are high up can be difficult to water properly so you could use self-lowering brackets. Flowering plants may even benefit from extra feeding with a high potash liquid fertiliser throughout the summer months to promote big healthy blooms.
You Can Now Start Planting Out Bedding And Other Half-Hardy Plants
If you've grown your own, make sure plants are hardened off - that is acclimatised to the cooler outdoor conditions - first.
• Water plants well before planting out. If you haven't grown your own then make sure you buy plenty of plants to ensure your garden is a riot of colour this summer.
• Plant thickly, most bedding should be planted between 15-23cm (6-9in) apart.
• Harden off half-hardy summer bedding plants that were started under cover. Place the plants outside for a short period only, at the warmest time of day, and then gradually increasing the length of time they are outside, building up to leaving them out overnight. Do this for a week or two before planting them outside. By hardening them off you will avoid any shock to the plant that could cause a few fatalities!
Keep The Grass Cut For A Healthy Looking Lawn
• Grass will be growing strongly now so make sure you mow regularly - probably weekly - aiming to keep the grass around 2.5-4cm (1-1.5in) high.
• Adjust the cutting height of your mower so that it takes off no more than half the length of the blades of grass at a time.
• While you're mowing, take note of bare patches, moss invasion and weeds and deal with any problems you see.
Keep Weeds Under Control So Your Flowering Plants Can Shine
Weeds can soon take over the garden, looking unsightly, smothering your prized plants and stealing valuable water and nutrients from the soil. Make sure you keep them under control before they become a problem.
• Annuals and small weeds can be hoed on a dry or windy day. Make sure the blade of the hoe is sharp as the aim is to cut through the weeds' stems.
• Larger infestations and all perennial weeds, especially those with creeping roots, are best treated with a weedkiller based on glyphosate, which will kill the roots as well as the top growth. You'll get better results if you spray in the evening.
• A thick mulch of organic material or using a planting membrane when planting up new beds will help keep the garden weed free.