Compared to last year the early summer weather has been rather unsettled. The early weeks of May were dry and relatively cool but this was soon squashed or squelched as the rains returned and it has been hit and miss ever since. We are now approaching mid-summer with no spell of settled weather on the horizon. Just have to make the most of every day that comes along. But overall, in the garden, the shrubs and the summer plants are growing away fine even though the night temperatures have been unseasonably low.
The most important task over the next few weeks is to finish getting your summer flowering plants planted up. Window boxes, hanging baskets, tubs, pots, barrels, boots, wheelbarrows…you name it, just plant it up ! This is an exciting time to add colour to your garden and to brighten up your patio areas or balconies for summer barbeques and eating outside in the evenings ! There is a wide range of plant varieties to choose from with different colour flowers and different growth habits from trailing ivies and Petunias to miniature conifers and the traditional Geranium. When planting up you can add slow release pellets to make fertilizing easier and ‘swell gel’ can make watering a bit easier. Some of the better composts have extra fertilizer mixed through the peat and will not need additional fertilizer for several weeks while the cheaper composts will contain less fertilizer and will need feeding earlier. A new formulation of compost, ‘XXX ‘, which contains a seaweed extract is very good for summer container planting . As for the mixture of plants you choose it is entirely up to yourself ! you can choose a certain theme for your containers with shades of reds and pinks for example or go mad and make every container different. Whatever you want as you will be the one looking at it, so experiment a bit and enjoy the colour ! When you have the arrangements growing away , watch out for slug attacks and greenfly as well as checking your containers for watering each evening. It may not be necessary to water every evening but just get in to a habit of checking them and you can see if they are under attack from any bug or slug ! If you didn’t add any slow release fertilizer at the time of planting add some liquid feed when watering. Follow instructions regarding frequency of watering as each brand would be different.
Out further now into the garden the lawn has become an abundance of daisies and buttercups in the ‘’ natural ‘’ lawns. By mowing at two week intervals it gives these wildflowers a chance to produce flower buds and open up before the next mowing. Also by raisuing the blades a little bit will also encourage the wild flowers to produce a display of flowers. If, however, you are in favour of a lawn of grass and no interruptions, spray with a lawn weed killer that will only kill the weeds or spread a 3 in1, lawn fertilizer which also contains a moss and weed killer. This will selectively kill the weeds and moss at the same time as encouraging grass growth. Apply just before a wet spell so the fertilizer can get washed into the ground.
As we approach mid-summer the range of shrubs that are coming in to flower is increasing. One of the best shrubs for this time of year is the Hydrangea. This has always been a traditional favourite for any garden. It thrives in wet conditions as well as being tolerant of dry spells. It comes in a wide range of flower colours in three distinct shapes. There is the more traditional ’Mop head’ varieties, then there is a more delicate and intricate flower head of the ’Lace Cap’ range. The third type are the cone shaped flower clusters of the taller, spiky, ’Panniculata’ types. All of these are great shrubs to have in your garden . This year there are several new varieties available as well as a range of flower colours in the ’Black Diamond’ range that has almost black coloured leaves which provides a fantastic back drop for their deep coloured flowers. On another note, the shrubs that have already flowered this year like Camelias, Spirea, Choisya, Forsythia..etc can be pruned back now so that they can start sprouting again with new growth and time to produce the buds for next spring’s flowers.
The trees are only just recovering from the April storm which burnt the leaves off the early leafing Silver Birch, Willow and Beech. These are all in the process of re-shooting but still look brown and burnt at the moment on their shoot tips. They will recover in time.
Summer flowering perennials are beginning to put on a good show now; Astilbe, Agapanthus, Dahlia, Lupins, Coreopsis, Gallardia, Salvia and Nepeta are some of the most popular but watch out for slug attacks on the Lupins, Dahlias and Delphiniums. The young shoots of these could easily get damaged by slugs when growth starts early in the spring so sprinkle a bit of slug bait around the plants from when growth commences . It would be advisable to start supporting the taller perennials like the Astilbe, Dahlia and Crocosmia Lucifer as their sudden soft growth could get easily flattened by a summers gale or a sudden thundery downpour. Take a look at the range of perennials out at Willowfield Garden Centre and I am sure you will find a home for some of them in your garden !
And as for the vegetable garden…everything should be in full swing ! Potatoes are growing well, in flower and will need earthing up another time if possible and spraying against blight. There is still plenty of time to sow seeds of salad crops and even peas and beans for late summer harvesting. The warming soil and the rain we have had recently will speed up the germination of all these seeds ( and weeds ! ) Watch out for slugs again, as they will be there every night waiting for those delicate shoots to appear above the soil when they will nip them off before you can see them ! An organic slug killer is available for those who want to limit the amount of chemicals being used in the garden. Sow peas and beans in containers inside to encourage quicker germination and plant out when they have toughened up a bit. Fertilize the growing crops with some Pelleted Poultry Manure as this gives a slow release of fertilizer over a few weeks when you can then repeat the dose.
And you can always call out to us at Willowfield Garden Centre for further advice .. see you there, Simon and Margaret