There's a lot going on in the garden right now, but it pays to prioritise

It’s a busy old time of year in the garden and it’s easy to get bogged down in ‘too much to do, too little time’ syndrome.

Very often I’ll start a day’s gardening with a clear list of what needs doing and then mid-way through the agenda I get sidetracked by something completely new which takes me way off course so I ed the day with lots of the essentials left undone.

So here’s a quick checklist of tasks that we need to be prioritising now to keep our gardens ticking over nicely all summer long.

When you’re watering, make sure the soil is drenched right around the plants, but their leaves stay as dry as possible

If you think I have missed something out – and I probably have – please feel free to drop me a line at ruth.hayes@futurenet.com

Let’s start with watering. We’ve had a gloriously hot spring, a few wet days last week and we’re apparently heading into another heatwave so after a brief respite it’s time to get those cans out again.

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Water in the early morning or evening, when it’s cooler, and make sure the soil around your plants gets a thorough soaking. Don’t fanny about tinkling water on the leaves, it won’t do anything and may even sit on the foliage, making the plants vulnerable to rotting or sun scorch.

Plants to prioritise include new plantings, anything in pots, growbags or baskets and fruit and veg that are nearing cropping.

Make sure greenhouse plants get a good soaking two or three times a week too. Growbags can be tricky to water as dry compost repels water, which then flows away down the sides of the plastic bags.

Fork it up a little first and add a couple of drops of washing-up liquid to the water, as this makes it easier to absorb.

Plants in containers and baskets need a liquid feed every week during the growing season

Feeding is another priority, as fast-growing crops and plants in pots all need an extra boost to give their best.

A weekly liquid feed will help plants in containers (use tomato food such as Tomorite or Big Tom for growbag crops) while hungry plants including roses and sweet peas will thank you for a mid-summer boost of a granular feed forked around their roots and carefully dug in and watered.

Deadhead every day to keep those summer flowers coming

Keep deadheading plants to promote new buds and keep on top of weeding. In the main picture I’m removing the flowered heads of late spring alliums. This tidies up the beds and also prevents the plants making seeds, so all the energy goes into bulking up the bulbs for next year’s blooms instead.

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Last week’s rain followed by warmer weather will get everything growing like mad, including weeds, so act now other wise you’ll have a massive job on your hands.

Along with deadheading, you can also be getting ready to harvest your earliest crops. Our first mange tout peas are almost ready for picking and courgettes will soon be starting to ripen.

The more you harvest courgettes the more you’ll get

Always check courgettes plants carefully because if just one beg is left in place, it will grow to marrow size and the plant will stop producing any others.

Slug pubs help reduce mollusc numbers. Make sure the rim of the pot is above soil level so helpful insects can’t fall in and drown

And then there’s the eternal battle against pests. If possible, use natural or organic methods to keep them in check – a squish between finger and thumb here, an organic deterrent or spray there – or, if you are lucky you may be able to enlist the forces of other garden creatures.

If you welcome it in, nature will help with pests – this cabbage white caterpillar was used as a live incubator by a parasitic wasp

Birds, amphibians, mammals and predatory insects are all your friends, not forgetting the parasitic wasps that rather gruesomely lay their eggs in cabbage white caterpillars, from which the young emerge and pupate.

Not a nice way to go, I’m sure, but at least your brassicas will be safe!

 

We are here for you

Although lockdown is easing, many people are still confined to their homes or concerned about going out because they are vulnerable to catching C19.

Here at AG we appreciate that and are doing our best to keep connected with our readers though the magazine, this website and also through social media.

Our gardening ‘agony uncle’ John Negus is also still working hard. Send him your problems and questions, with pictures if you can, and he will get back to you with an answer within 24 hours, as he has been doing for decades. Contact him using the AG email address at: amateurgardening@futurenet.com

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