Garden writer Marc Rosenberg, who has been gardening for 30 years and has contributed to the STIHL blog since 2018, shares what he’s sowing and growing in June with a diary from his small suburban garden. With midsummer’s day around the corner, it’s that time of year to plant out tender summer bedding and veg, while the addition of a pond will be a magnet for wildlife…
1 June Planting
It’s often said there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes (cheerful, eh?!) but for gardeners there is a third. If you have a greenhouse, you will run out of growing space, guaranteed. This theory is especially true this spring, which started out full of promise with sunny days, only to test gardeners’ patience with frosty nights in April and early May. The result is that tender garden plants have been protected under glass for longer this season and greenhouses, including mine, are bursting at their seams.
Thankfully, the arrival of June means it should now be safe to plant summer bedding plants and young vegetables in their final growing positions, provided that plants have been gradually accustomed to cooler temperatures by being placed outdoors during the day over the last fortnight. Even if you re-energised soil earlier in the season by adding well-rotted manure or garden compost, forking in a sprinkling of slow-release fertiliser prior to planting will work wonders, resulting in better flowers, heavier crops and stronger growth.
Avoid disturbing roots ahead of planting out by watering plants well, before gently easing from plant pots and firming into the soil. When planting rows of vegetables I use string suspended between two sticks to mark out the growing line – it makes correct plant spacing easier. Bedding is unlikely to require such formality, but don’t be tempted to cram plants in too tightly: displays may look sparse during the first few weeks but will quickly fill out.
2 Building a Pond
There is no easier way to enhance biodiversity in your garden than by installing a pond, even if it’s only a tiny pool of water. It’s claimed that in the UK alone, over the past 100 years, half a million ponds have been filled in. The Covid-19 pandemic is said to have reversed the trend, as gardeners seek to transform plots into wildlife-friendly havens of tranquillity and building a pond makes a perfect staycation project. You don’t need to keep fish, as even a small pond will rapidly be colonised by newts, frogs and toads while dragonflies, pond skaters and water beetles will track down a new expanse of water.
Building a pond has been on my to-do list for years, so it’s finally time to turn the plan into reality. There are two options: dig a hole and insert a tough, flexible butyl rubber liner or buy a rigid, pre-formed pond. For convenience, I’m opting for the latter but whichever you choose, shelves around the edges at varying heights are a must for marginal plants, while enabling wildlife to safely climb out of the water. It’s essential to locate ponds in a site that benefits from sunlight for at least half of the day while being away from overhanging trees. After digging the hole, the excavation should be lined with a couple of inches of wet sand before inserting the pond, levelling using a spirit level, and filling with water. If you plan to keep cold water fish, then a pump/filtration system is a must, remembering that outdoor power supplies should be installed by a qualified electrician. Alternatively, even a mini-pond can attract wildlife and this blog post from the Two Thirsty Gardeners includes some mini-pond ideas to try.
3 Tackle Lupin Aphid
The enduring appeal of lupins lies in their ability to repeat flower year after year. These charming, quintessentially English blooms are a mainstay of cottage garden borders but unfortunately, they also appeal to lupin aphids; big, grey, sap-sucking nuisances that were first found in the UK in the early 1980s. Left unchecked, infestations multiply fast, leaving foliage covered with sticky excretion until plants wilt and eventually collapse.
This year has been particularly bad for lupin aphid and while it’s vital to nip infestations in the bud there’s no need to use chemicals. I’ve found that natural sprays such as Neudorff Bug Free Bug & Larvae Killer will zap pesky aphids quickly. However, regular inspection and repeat spraying is a must – as is snipping off spent lupin flower spikes, which encourages plants to repeat flower.
4 Put Tulips to Bed For Summer
Tulips have been a riot of colour this spring, putting on a brilliant display. Because bulbs dislike wet conditions, I grow mine in terracotta flower pots on the patio, snipping off seed heads after flowering but leaving foliage alone until June. Allowing leaves to turn yellow and die down naturally provides bulbs with a chance to build up energy for next year. Tidy foliage away quickly and bulbs will lack reserves to put on a show in future.
Unlike daffodils, tulips are unlikely to flower for a second year if left in situ, which is why it’s wise to lift and dry the bulbs six to eight weeks after they’ve flowered. After tipping bulbs from their container (or gently lifting from garden soil), compost or soil should be cleaned away while any bulbs that show signs of decay should be binned. Bulbs must be allowed to completely dry before being stored in trays over summer in a dark, cool place where temperatures don’t exceed around 20°C – garages or larders are ideal. Check bulbs over summer, discarding any with rot. Tulip bulbs can then be replanted in autumn.
5 Trim Unruly Clematis
Clematis montana is brilliant for creating privacy in gardens, scrambling more than 7m high on fences, trellis and walls. This rampant climber is smothered in single white flowers each spring, often followed by a second flush later in the season, and is so vigorous that clematis plants can become unruly. To keep growth in check, I’m trimming back long shoots to healthy buds, which should be carried out immediately after flowering. This can sacrifice flowering next season but plants quickly bounce back. It’s a good time to remove spent blooms from camellias, too, and pinch faded flower heads from rhododendrons.
6 Plant a Patio Herb Kitchen
Barbecue season is finally here! I’m no Jamie Oliver when it comes to cooking alfresco (my speciality is cremated burgers and bangers) and that’s why a patio herb planter is a must for injecting flavour into summer dishes. There’s no need to splash out on expensive kit: a flower pot or trough in a sunny spot, planted with popular herbs such as basil, chives, thyme, coriander and parsley, will provide an ample supply of aromatic, food mile-free ingredients all summer long, whether you’re looking to infuse salads with flavour or pick fresh herbs to garnish dishes.
What are you doing in your garden in June? Will you be planting your own patio herb garden? Share your summer garden ideas in the comments below.