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This month in the garden - 2018

June in the garden

If your plants survived the late frosts, heavy rains, floods and giant hailstones that we experienced this spring, your summer garden should really be taking shape by now. As summer hots up, the garden landscape is changing as the low lying winter veg gives way to high climbing beans and tomato poles. By midsummer's day the first tomatoes should be ready to eat. Water now starts to become an issue. Unless you are lucky enough to have a plentiful supply all summer, you will be looking at ways to conserve water in the soil. If you have been adding organic matter to your beds, the rewards will really start to pay off. A soil rich in humus holds moisture like a sponge. To help prevent your soil drying out, limit bare soil by dense plantings or mulching around your plants. Compost is an ideal mulch now, straw can get very dry and blow off in the hot summer winds.

Sweetcorn, courgettes and okra and can be direct sown until the middle of the month. Plant more sweet potatoes and peanuts. Continue monthly sowings of french beans.

Everyone loves a salad in the summer but the truth is, lettuces thrive at around 18° C but will start to bolt when the temperatures get into the high 20s. The seeds won't even germinate when temperatures get over 30 degrees. Use your taller plants as shade, growing lettuces under tomatoes or on the north side of your corn patch. Try using shade cloth and keep the roots cool with frequent watering and mulch. Loose leaf lettuces and romaine varieties are more heat resistant. Plant regularly and harvest when they are small. Or why not try something totally different in your summer salads? Basil comes in many flavours or try other heat loving greens like leaf amaranth, Malabar spinach, sorrel or shiso. Some endives and chicories will also fare well in the heat.

Don't forget, gardening should be a pleasure. If you start to feel overwhelmed, reduce your growing space. If you lose control of a bed, strim it, drag a tarp over it, stop watering it and come back later when it's not so hot!

TIP: To germinate lettuces when the day and night time temperatures are high, sow seeds in pots and put in the fridge for 4 to 6 days.

READER'S QUESTION: I'm planning to go away for part of the summer. What can I do to prevent my whole garden dying while I am away? - Sian, Velez de Benaudalla
Ideally, you would really like to find someone to come round and water regularly while you are away. If you can't organise that, give your trees a good deep watering before you go and mulch heavily around the base to conserve as much moisture as you can. Consider a drip feed irrigation system with a battery operated timer. It is relatively easy to install and there is a wide range of timer controllers available with varying prices and functions. You can set the watering times and there are even some available with a light sensor that will automatically water at sunrise and sun set.

If you are thinking about leaving veg in the ground to come back and harvest, choose some low maintenance vegetables. As long as they get some water, sweet potatoes and pumpkins will grow happily and give good ground cover so will suppress the weeds. You should be able to harvest them when you get back. Peppers, aubergines and peanuts are ready later so you should be able to harvest them when you get back. Veg that needs regular harvesting, like melons and tomatoes, would not be worthwhile in my opinion. You would come back to a load of split, rotting fruit.

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