June has crept up on me this year. Being confined to my own home and garden has meant that more than ever before I've noticed the changes in the space that surrounds me. Usually everything is done in such a rush. But for the first time in a while I've been able to garden at my leisure. Who knew that something so positive could come out of this global pandemic.
As a result I've totally hit my vegetable gardening goals - probably for the first time ever. It's amazing what you can get done when you spend all your weekends (and evenings and weekdays) at home. When all your weekends away, evenings out with friends and countryside bimbles on the bicycle are put on hold. Despite the worry and uncertainty in the world at the moment (and there are so many) – I am happy to focus on the positives.
So I spent another weekend pottering about in my garden, enjoying the amazing sunshine that we've enjoyed in Gloucestershire this year, planting my fennel and beans and repotting some courgette and squash seedlings. I don’t have any space in my vegetable beds for anything more at the moment so I'm relying on upsizing seedlings into pots to keep my plants healthy until some space frees up. At the first sign of leaf droop, when the roots become too much for the existing container, I pull out a slightly bigger pot, fill with fresh compost and rehome my seedling. I keep hold of all the plastic pots that find their way into my garden and use them until they fall apart.
With the official start of summer, and so many plants in leaf and bloom I am constantly amazed at how much wildlife inhabits my garden. Considering that the space sits somewhat isolated in an otherwise very suburban environment, I am amazed at how the insects and birds know where to come for nectar and pollen, shade and water.
This is perhaps what makes me happiest about having a garden. Watching and listening to the insects and birds that buzz about and enjoy the space with me. I know it is a far cry from an actual wilderness but it is the best I can do. There is a gentle and fairly constant hum from all the buzzing insects and an undulating twitter from the army of sparrows (who I feel are actually very mischievous). Every plant in my garden has to have some kind of benefit to wildlife. Whether it is habitat for birds, forage for bees or to create a hiding space for millipedes and centipedes.
I have thymes and chives in full bloom, the last of the alliums receding into the background. Tall spires of white valerian (Valeriana officinalis) and not so tall spires of red valerian (Centranthus ruber). There are perennial cornflowers and rows of heartsease, muddled in with newly sprouted shoots of borage and the first of my annual Cosmos just coming into bloom. The Aquilegias are on their way out, but the lemon balm is on her way in. And so the garden ebbs and flows, changing with the cycles of the moon and the lengthening daylight hours.
After a challenging few months of worry and anxiety, with the lockdown rules relaxing a little, I feel that June is a good month to take stock. To sit back, to enjoy the work that has been put in to the garden so far. No matter how much maintenance is required it is important not to get bogged down in garden tasks. Yes, be proactive. Yes, keep on top of things. But don't feel bad about not getting everything done. Remember to sit down every now and again, listen to the birds and insects and enjoy the space that you have. Now, more than ever, I am counting my blessings.
Water. We have had the sunniest May since records began and also the driest in a long long time. It is therefore important to keep track of your plants and water them as they need. My mixed borders (shrubs and perennials) are actually fine without any water due to a combination of mulch and thoughtful planting. My strawberry patch, vegetable garden and any newly planted perennials or shrubs have, however, needed regular watering. At this time of year it is wise to take a daily walk through your garden, courtyard or balcony. That way you will be notice if anything looks unhappy or needs a little bit of attention.
Weed. Keep on top of your weeding as much as you can. Particularly the more thuggish weeds such as bindweed and dock. Don’t forget that some 'weeds' are actually quite useful. Only weed out the plants that you think will cause persistent trouble in your garden. Bindweed for example, even though it does have lovely flowers, smothers everything and gets everywhere. I therefore pull it out. Dandelions on the other hand I am a little more relaxed about. They are nitrogen fixers, have edible leaves and are good for beetles, birds and moths. It is your garden, you can decide what is welcome and what isn't.
Lift and divide congested clumps of snowdrops and bluebells once the leaves have started to yellow and die.
Keep an eye on any climbing plants that you have and tie in new shoots as needed.
Harvest lavender flowers for baking, drying, using as cut flowers or for essential oils/medicinal purposes. Now is also a good time to take cuttings to increase your stock.
Prune plum and cherry trees if needed.
Protect fruit crops from birds – use netting over crops such as strawberries and gooseberries.
Prune Spring flowering shrubs such as Lilac and Forsythia.
Keep bird baths and bird feeders topped up.
In the vegetable garden:
Keep earthing up potatoes and harvest new potatoes;
Pinch out the side shoots on tomato plants;
Harvest salad leaves by picking individual leaves from the base of the plant;
Keep an eye on onion and garlic crops and harvest when the leaves start to turn yellow and droop.
Don't forget to subscribe to my mailing list at the bottom of this page. In my next post I'll be giving you some ideas on how you can create a mixed, wildlife friendly border in your own garden.
If you want any help or advice on what to do with your own garden get in touch with Emma at Wild Edge Garden Design via email or telephone. Whether you want a naturalistic and wild space to entice nature in or something a little more contemporary and elegant - I can create a space that works for you.