The month of July is when we should be sitting back and enjoying the fruits of our labour.
When I look back at life I could be accused of getting old, but eating out in the garden isn’t new.
As a child, our garden had a fair-sized lawn and next to the bed of black currant bushes my Dad would erect a white canvas framed open fronted canopy. So when the sun was hot we would sit and or play in it. He had made a wooden table and painted it a dreadful green colour. My brother and I had our own deckchairs and as a family at weekends we would have our meals in the garden outside including breakfast. I’m talking about when I was very young but alfresco dining was in then!
Not to the degree of today with all these incredible bbq’s.
Recently at friends, they cooked a fantastic meal on their Weber Kamado barbecue, and not just sausages and burgers but also asparagus and corn, followed by bananas in liqueur.
So go on enjoy the garden but don’t ignore it either.
With the warmth from those couple of weeks of sun then the rain all the garden has taken off, now that doesn’t just mean flowers and shrubs putting on more growth than normal but weeds are shooting up everywhere.
A great flower bed that I look after has Liriope, Sedum Autumn Joy, Hellebores and bordered with Alchemilla Mollis, nicely planted closely with no soil showing and you wouldn’t believe the weeds that strive to come up through the thick foliage.
As they show their faces, it is so easy just to pull them out.
And what a season as the Sedums are nearly in flower.
You can tell I like thick planting and less signs of soil and it’s the same with shrubs, as one has to learn that shrubs just like flowers need regular maintenance.
For instance, when those early flowering shrubs finish you should have cut the wood back hard leaving any new growth to grow up ready for next year. As Viburnums, like opulus, vigorously grow and are in full bloom with their snowball like flowers reduce after flowering and keep in shape.
Remember all shrubs can touch but need to have their own individuality and not treated as hedges and cut with a hedge trimmer, use secateurs and preferably a good pair like these from Felco which will last for years.
And check on correct pruning by asking “GardeningwithKen” – so many gardeners are too keen to use hedge trimmers and round everything into a ball and that’s just wrong!
Perrennial plants also need continuous supporting and if staked too late the beauty is lost as they are tied in and look tied in and the natural shape is lost.
Cutting back and deadheading is the other useful thing to be getting on with at the moment. Many early flowering Geraniums are fading and if cut back hard, will burst forth and give you more flowers for the late summer.
So many plants benefit from this treatment and one that is often missed and allowed to go to seed is Cat Mint or Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ will grow as high, as thick, and as full of flower on its second flush.
Bedding plants or annuals can’t be ignored just because they are grown for this season only, regular feeding is so important and why not try “Flower Power “ from Richard Jackson or use Tomorite to boost flowering.
Another important thing with so many annuals is deadheading. This just means removing the dead flowers as the plant will generally try to produce seed rather than more flowers, and we want the energy into bud and flowers for more colour.
Let’s think about that vegetable plot.
Some of those early potatoes could be dug up and although some are small, they’re a joy to have with cold meats and salads.
Now for salads.
The lettuce aren’t really ready either, but the Little Gem are great to eat. Unfortunately, our radish bolted as we obviously missed the watering at some stage, but no mater. Just keep on sowing a few every week or so.
The carrots have formed and the thinnings are ideal for my salad bowl, and keep sowing Early Nantes from Kings Seeds and you should keep them coming.
My tomatoes are not ripe yet, so have been buying myself Piccolo – a, sweet variety but with great flavour.
All the above with a stick of celery, mixed nuts and raisins, not forgetting diced apples, French Dressing what more could you want in a salad?
Remember we have to always think ahead and for pulling in winter get some Eskimo carrots planted, and there’s still time to get a french bean or late runner bean planted as if we have a warm autumn, the beans will still be there to pick.
Keep crops watered, so important to stop parsnip and spinach going to seed, not forgetting the lettuce I spoke of earlier.
I’m also looking forward to the courgettes as they are now forming, Orelia as a yellow and the green one I think is worth growing is good old Zucchini.
All I then need is my tomatoes and aubergine and I can make my ratatouille.
One of the most important parts of your garden could be your lawn. Whether it’s a beautiful manicured one or another covered in clover all flowering where the buttercups have just finished. Well let’s start with the flowering meadow or neglected lawn full of flowers.
There was a campaign to not mow in May but with the bouts of rain lately the grass has grown to a new high.
Now if you decide to work towards a meadow rather than a lawn you will need to leave till August when you cut, but not with a mower as this chops up the grass and the seeds as well. What you really want is a nice dry spell and the chance of cutting the grass and wild flowers. These are left to dry, and for seeds to drop to the ground ready for next years growth and flowering.
As for that manicured lawn, cutting at least once a week is so important and not too short. If you want it lush and green, feed with a good quality granular feed like Miracle Grow Evergreen. The weather has been just right for a feed and the lawn will green up within days.
Last but not least you need a good pair of edging sheers – I personally use Bulldog Premier Edging Shears. Keep those edges cut (again at least once a week) as sharp edges will set off your beds and making the garden a beautiful setting for us all to enjoy.
Ken’s Weekly Tips – Dealing with fungus on sleepers
When fungus grows on a sleeper, it's just doing what it's meant to do - breaking down dead organic matter and returning it to the soil.
Ken’s Weekly Tips – 29th June
The veg plot is doing well, but we not totally pest free. Something has got to the peas and the slugs are proving to be fond of the beans.
Gardening With Ken – Why not visit the Dry Garden at RHS Hyde Hall, Essex?
The Dry Garden at Hyde Hall in Essex has some beautiful planting options suitable for any garden. The best bit? Many need little if any watering!
It’s September, and it’s another busy month in the garden.
September is now upon us, and there's a lot to do to keep it looking at it's best, and to prepare it for next season.
Ken’s Weekly Tips – Dealing with ‘Fairy Rings’
Fairy rings are circular formations made up of mushrooms and are natural occurrences. Some are tiny while others can reach 600m in diameter.
Ken’s Weekly Tips – 13th June
All gardens need pollinators such as bees and insects, and you'll find many are attracted to lavender. Find a suitable spot, and get some planted.