June in the garden
It’s flaming June, if we are lucky. The danger of frost has now passed and if you have a greenhouse or cold frames, it is safe to leave doors and vents open during the night. This is quite essential, as daytime temperatures can get very high in these enclosed areas; ventilation and airflow around plants are extremely important now to head off any potential pest and disease problems, such as powdery mildew.
As crops rapidly mature for harvesting, it’s a good idea to take a bit of time each week to check on progress and maintenance requirements. For example: tie in tomatoes, climbing beans and other climbing plants to their supports, keep an eye on fast maturing crops like lettuce and spinach and pick before they run to seed (bolt), and watch out for unwelcome visitors, like slugs, who are also quietly harvesting your produce. The time-tested method of beer in a steep-sided dish, the top at soil level in the ground, still works extremely well in catching slugs.
Weeds are happily growing after last month’s rain and warmer days, competing for water and nutrients from the soil. Keep on hoeing frequently, especially in dry weather. Mulch potatoes, or continue earthing up. Grass cuttings can be used as mulch, particularly on dry soil, between rows of many crops but take care not to let the clippings touch any part of plants. The clippings are turned in when the crop is cleared, eventually decaying and enriching the soil. Feed growing plants with diluted liquid seaweed feed once a month if you can. Broad beans can suffer from blackfly now: simply pinch out the tops of plants to help control any infestations.
Nature has her own, timeless way of stepping in to promote a good crop, and this month the phenomenon known as ‘June Drop’ occurs for many top and soft fruit. If you look on the ground around your apples, pears, gooseberries, etc., you’ll find some small, immature fruitlets that have dropped from the plants. Don’t panic. This is a natural thinning out process done by the plant but you can help things along yourself by thinning out any diseased, misshapen, damaged or overcrowded fruitlets. This leaves more space for a higher yield and larger fruits, promotes good hygiene, increases air circulation and helps fruit to ripen quicker and more evenly.
Summer pruning needs to be carried out now on red and white currants, gooseberries and all trained apples and pears. Simply remove about half to three quarters of each new shoot across one third of the plant. You can also propagate these soft cuttings, ideally in a heated propagator. Remove any weak, unwanted canes from raspberries but make sure you have sufficient growing for a good crop next year - six young canes to a root are generally sufficient. Put a net over soft fruit for protection from birds.
Strawberries are a very easy and popular fruit to grow and don’t need much room – you can even grow them in containers. June sees the beginning of the short season for these luscious fruit, but you can extend the season by selecting varieties that fruit later on and enjoy earlier crops by growing under protection. Put straw underneath the plants to avoid soil splashes on fruit during rainfall. Keep weeds under control, as strawberries are affected by abundant weed growth.
Sowing and planting
Transplant seedlings of winter crops to their growing positions:
- Brussels sprouts
Grow for a succession of crops throughout the summer:
- Summer spinach
Philippa Pearson is a professional horticulturist and gardener, and she looks after a large estate in Hertfordshire amongst other projects. A keen and passionate gardener all her life, Philippa lives in rural Cambridgeshire where her ever increasing organically maintained vegetable and fruit garden provide a year round harvest of interesting crops, despite being on heavy clay.