June is a joyous month, the season of English roses and strawberries and all the delights of summer. With the spring plantings going over you can slot in young plants in the knowledge that summer is finally here. As most of us haven’t the space or the facilities to grow much from seed at home in the warmth, it is worth taking a look at the small plants in the markets and garden centres for tender produce – tomatoes, aubergines, peppers, sweet corn, courgettes, and squashes, sweet potatoes and outdoor cucumbers. You will be recompensed handsomely for the outlay in both in quantity, absolute freshness and a superabundance of taste in late July and August.
Examples of plants that can be sown from seed outside now are bush beans, radishes and salad leaves. Baby carrots, baby leaves of kale and other greens and radishes can be grown in under a month and spinach in six weeks. Summer annuals also grow fast. Poppies sown now will flower in six weeks. Sarah Raven has some lovely suggestions of flowers to sow now to enjoy in late summer.
When sowing it is important to take the trouble to make a fine tilth, to sow as thinly as possible and then thin the young plants further to the right planting distances according to the instructions on the packet to avoid overcrowding.
The local Sainsbury’s has quite a good selection of seed and their potted herbs at £1 each can go straight into the garden now.
Watering is always a major feature of high summer. Rules on wise watering are, when possible, to water early morning or - even better - in the evening when evaporation is less. This also avoids scorching the plants in hot weather. Don’t use a hose. The plots at Culpeper are so small that it is easy to hand water them. Make a little moat around plants as a reservoir. Water the base of the plant. Prioritize the plants that need water most – e.g. young plants that are not fully established or any plant in a container. Use up grey water. Washing up water from the Tea Hut is fine for watering the garden. If you haven’t already done so, take advantage of the manure that has come in, and spread it as a mulch after a good rain to keep moisture in and weeds out, while improving the soil and feeding the plants.
Deadhead plants for more blooms and to keep things tidy but leave roses that will bear good hips for the birds in autumn and winter. Cut back dead foliage of bulbs now and cut oriental poppies right to the base after flowering. Above all, enjoy the month of June.