It’s the pride and joy of many an English household summer. Some of us use them for a kick about, others a water fight. There are those who stretch for a spot of sun worship, and a good number who practice the weekend ritual of cooking sausages to within an inch of their lives on the barbecue. The garden is our haven from the stresses and strains of modern life.
But it’s also a place of work (of sorts). The work of passion for nature, the outdoors and the desire to create a personal environment that can provide the most beautiful setting in which to relax – as well as put food on the table. So – if you’re in your first year tending to a new garden – here’s our ‘Magnificent 7’ tips as we move from spring into summer…
There’s a lot to learn with gardening, to the point that you’ll never know it all. But if you’re a little, er, green when it comes to being green-fingered our modest blog is here to help – with a handy top seven of hints and tips to get your garden looking lovely.
1. Keep one eye out for Jack Frost.
Our weather seems to be getting weirder and less predictable every year. We’ve gone from sub-tropical 20+ celsius in April, to (almost) sub-zero overnight in May. Those clear blue days can still threaten frost. So – even this late in the day – check the forecast and be prepared to protect your more fragile plants from frost.
2. Be kind to the good bugs.
If you’re using insecticide to keep the aphids off your roses, or the winter moth caterpillars off your foliage, think about the good bugs. Try and use treatments that are longer lasting and apply them at sundown, when the good bugs that you don’t want to deter have headed back to the hedgerows and aren’t buzzing around.
3. Sequence Your Salads.
Tucking in to a homegrown salad is one of life’s summer pleasures. If you’re getting excited about endives and ravenous for rocket – stop! Don’t sow all your salad seeds at once. If you do they’ll crop all at once and you won’t stand a chance at eating them all. Sow little and often, so that you’ve got a continual supply of all those luscious leaves throughout the summer.
4. Cull the Weedy Weeds.
Weeds steal light, water and nutrients from the plants that you want to see in your garden. Getting rid of them will make life easier for all the plants you do want to see. Dandelions, thistles, stinging nettles and bindweed tend to have long tap roots. The only way to really banish them is with elbow grease and a hand-fork – digging them out and removing all the roots. You might also find chickweed, bittercress and speedwell which are much more easily removed – due to their short roots – skimming them off with a garden hoe. Do your weeding on a sunny day and leave the remnants to dry and wither. Stick to that routine year after year and you’ll find you have fewer weeds year on year.
5. Mow, Mow and Mow Again.
If you’ve got lawn and you want to keep it in tip top shape – mow it regularly. That means at least once a week throughout May and June. Set your mower to a minimum height of 1.5″ (4cm).
6. Clean and treat – paths, sheds and pergolas.
If your concrete pathways, fences, pergolas, sheds and other garden structures have green algae growth, clean it with a pressure washer and proprietary algae killer. Then (where appropriate) treat timber with a coat of creosote or other wood treatment.
7. Planting in, out, in, out and staying out.
When it comes to veggies, the ones you’ll be sowing in late May are runner and/or French beans – sow 9″ apart. On the herb front Chervil, Dill, Fennel and Coriander are all good to get in the ground – they’ll make excellent accompaniments to those lovely salad leaves too. You’ll probably have already got some of your veg underway as seedlings – such as Kale, Cauli’s, Leeks and whatnot – you’ll be looking to transplant out from late may and early June. Begin by introducing them to their new environment in their pots during daytime – and bring them in at night. Called ‘hardening off’, it means they’re more likely to take and flourish when you transplant them in full.
The Icing on the Cake (or the garnish on the refreshments).
We said 7 tips didn’t we? Well this isn’t really a tip – it’s more of a reward…. make sure you take time to sit back and admire your handiwork – that newly cleaned and spruced up garden bench is the perfect place to stop on a sunny evening, with a traditional Gin & Tonic, to admire your handiwork. You could even use some of your wintered herbs as ingredients.