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This month in the garden - 2021

June in the Garden

Summer is here, after a bit of a slow start. It almost feels as if we skipped spring this year and went from cold to scorching overnight. For those of you growing from seed you may have struggled to get your chillies, peppers and aubergines going. Don’t despair if it feels like you are planting them in the ground very late. They will continue cropping well into the autumn. In fact your entire harvest may be a little later this year. Looking back on my notes I see that this year’s cold spring is not that unusual. There seems to be a pattern forming – colder springs and summer lasting longer – almost as if the seasons have shifted a month. Keep notes of what you plant when, what works and what doesn’t and read them the following year. If we are going into a phase of climate change, our own notes will help us to adapt.

Corn, okra, courgettes, carrots, radish, peanuts, cucumbers, sweet potatoes and beans can all be direct sown this month. Pinch out the side shoots of your tomato plants and tie the plants in to keep them neat and tidy. You can plant side shoots in potting compost to propagate more plants. Growth will be fast now and tomato plants can get out of control very quickly. Weeds will also start to become even more of an issue so try to keep ahead of them. A few minutes with the hoe every morning breaks up the surface of the soil and prevents a crust forming and dislodges any weed seeds before they germinate. Try to get deep rooted perennial weeds and grasses out by the roots by digging down where you can, without disrupting your crops.

Permaculture graduates swear by mulch, not only to control weeds but also to help retain moisture in the soil, which can be very useful in a summer garden. The first principle of permaculture is, however, not mulch, it is observation. Not all mulches are equal! It is crucial to pay attention to how your mulch is performing in your conditions. Straw mulch can become very dry in summer and blow around in the wind and end up clogging up your water channels. It can also become a breeding ground for slugs and snails that will come out at night and munch their way through all your tender young plants. Fresh wood chips rob nitrogen from the soil as they start to decompose so are better to have been left to sit for at least six months before being spread as a mulch. Decaying sticky, woody mulches provide a perfect habitat for woodlice. These little armoured creatures are rumoured to eat only decaying matter. This is untrue. If you are having problems with something unknown eating your plants, go out into the garden at night with a torch. You may expect to find a big fat snail and may be surprised to encounter hordes of cute little woodlice crawling all over your leaves. One woodlouse won’t do much damage but a whole tribe of them can wreak havoc. Remove the mulch and look for the nest. It will be in a nearby pile of stones or sticks.

Manure can also be used as a mulch but if it is too fresh it may burn the plants so spread it only when it is very well rotted. Well broken down compost is the ideal mulch. Used as a top dressing, it will also provide fertility for the plants. It can be hoed easily too.

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