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This month in the garden - 2019

June in the garden

Looks like we've got a good chance of survival this summer with plenty of water in the rivers and the dams full to the brim. It's hard to predict how hot summer is going to be so it's a good idea to plan for extreme heat and hope it doesn't come! If you are considering drip irrigation to conserve water and to reduce the gardener's workload, now is the time to get it set up and make sure it's all working properly. Weeds will become vigorous so try your best to keep ahead of them. Make “hoe and mulch, hoe and mulch” your daily mantra until September.

By now the summer garden should be well underway. Keep pinching out the lateral shoots of the tomato plants as you tie them onto the poles. Continue with successional sowings of French beans and sow soya beans, Asian beans, sweetcorn, okra and peanuts. Sweet potato slips can go in the ground.

Try to find some shady spots for salads or switch now to “summer greens”. Malabar spinach, New Zealand spinach, leaf amaranths and orach all love the heat. You should have plenty of basil now too.

It's very important to look after yourself as well as your plants. In the summer heat it's crucial to protect yourself against heat stroke, sunburn and exhaustion. Work early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid the heat of the day, wear a hat and sunscreen or a lightweight long sleeved shirt and most importantly, keep yourself hydrated. Don't underestimate the value of good health! I have just come through a period of ill health which kept me out of the garden for six months. The garden has survived but with a design of it's own, almost turning into a cardoon forest. It is often said that gardening is therapeutic and I now have a deeper understanding of what that means. As garden and gardener we strike a balance where we support one another. The gardener is fulfilled on a deep level by nurturing plants to create something both beautiful and edible. The garden relies on the gardener to keep marauding cardoons, and other space invaders, at bay. If you know someone who is unwell, lonely or depressed please consider sharing some time in your garden with them. It really is the best therapy.

Tip: When temperatures are over 30 degrees C, Runner bean pollen is not viable. To avoid abundantly flowering plants that never set fruit, sow the seeds in early spring or late summer. July sown plants will bear fruit in October.

Reader's question: What's happening to my tomato plants? They were healthy seedlings just about ready to plant out and now they are turning yellow with bald patches on the leaves and black smudges all over them. What is it and what can I do?
Sounds like you have a tuta absoluta infestation. The black smudges are the tell tale excrement left behind by the tiny little tuta caterpillars. Have a look at the bald patches on your leaves. The bright green grub burrows into the leaves and sits in between the membranes eating the fleshy green parts. You can often see them through the membranes and here you can squash them. As the plants mature, the grubs will burrow into the stems and eventually will eat a hole into the fruit. It's not the end of the world if your tomatoes are for home use, you can just cut that bit, and the caterpillar, out, but for commercial growers, it's a disaster. The biggest danger is when the growing tips get attacked, the plants are stunted and often don't recover. It's best to get on top of it as soon as they appear. Manually remove all damaged leaf parts, squash grubs and make sure you have plenty of diversity in your garden. Flowering herbs attract insect predators which will work on your behalf. Give your plants a feed for a boost of strength to help fight off the plague. You could use neem, an organic pesticide, but bear in mind it is still a toxin and will kill you friends as well as your foes. It is unlikely that you will see the tiny nocturnal adult moth.

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