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June & July in the Garden

We are coming to the hottest months of the year, when we can sit out and enjoy the garden, with just the dead-heading to prolong flowering, watering new plants and pots and hoeing off weeds, which grow quickly in the sun. I try to water using grey water, but not for food crops, and only when new plants are dry. Clematis can suffer from clematis wilt now, and algae and blanket weed need clearing from ponds. The grass has suffered with both the heat and rain, so it could benefit from a quick-acting feed, as I don’t feed it regularly.

The pots, baskets and borders have been planted up, but the slugs and snails have already attacked. Recently, Gardeners Question Time recommended using beer traps; I hope they work! We are again leaving part of the lawn uncut this summer. A UK study proved that longer grass boosts butterfly numbers. We also saw many grasshoppers and shield bugs last year. Flowering ivy increased the number of the holly blue, the red admiral and the comma butterflies. Weeds also grow in the long grass and are beneficial for pollinators, but can compete with other plants and be a refuge for pests and diseases. One solution is to remove the flower head before seeds form. Perennial weeds, such as the bindweed, bramble and couch grass we have, are harder to remove and need careful digging out. Annual weeds, such as groundsel, chickweed and hairy bittercress can be hoed off, but weeds have advantages for a range of insects. It is so hard to find a balance!

I tried to stake all the plants needing support, but inevitably some have grown taller quickly and now flop over. I have tied climbers to supports and will prune the weigela and philadelphus, once they have finished flowering, to ensure flowers next year.

Chelsea Flower Show starts on 20th May and has introduced a green medal for eco-friendly gardens. This is a prize for sustainability, rewarding gardens with the lowest carbon impact. Chelsea is commissioning a carbon audit of its planned gardens in a move to reduce emissions. Many horticulturalists are now using recycled objects rather than concrete, considering ways to manage water, using dense planting and water capture, and using plants from UK, planted in peatless soil.

Timely warnings in Gardeners World to avoid problems when gardening: warm up before digging; don’t let weeds take over; keep your shed organised (mines a mess); don’t prune at the wrong time of year (the RHS website is useful); wear protective gear when using machinery; take care when lifting heavy objects; wear sunscreen (I leave the sunscreen at the backdoor); and clean your tools (must try harder!). I shall visit lots of gardens, looking for inspiration; maybe see you there. Enjoy your garden.

Josephine Becker.

Reproduced with the kind permission of the author from the St Mary’s, Godmanchester Parish Magazine for June.