I love June - the start of summer and the weather is starting to feel hot but not, usually, unbearably so. Flowers are at their peak as we enter the month and the vegetable garden is full of herbs and leaves, with the promise of tomatoes, peppers, aubergines and all the other summer vegetables on the near horizon.
Echinacea pallida - this produces tall flowers, which remind me of the dresses of 1920s flapper girls, in June.
Here are some of the things on my to-do list this month:
Remove the remaining dead leaves of spring flowering bulbs. If you had daffodils naturalising in the grass you can now cut them down. This also involves cutting the grass, however, and as your long grass may also be full of wild flowers you will probably prefer to leave the grass /daffodil leaf cutting until the flowers are spent. If that is your plan, then the best time to do this is from the end of July onwards. This topic is the cause of endless arguments in our house as Mr Tidy and Mrs Messy hotly debate the issue.
Wild flower meadows - don't cut them yet.....more about this in our next Newsletter.
Water, weed and dead head. The rhythm of the garden changes as we morph from spring into summer. The next three months are largely about keeping plants going throughout the hot and dry weather. So - water pots regularly and feed plants in pots weekly with a liquid feed. Plants in pots are like pets in cages - they are completely dependent on you for food and water. I prefer to water in the evening as it minimises evaporation loss. I try not to water plants which are planted in the ground as, environmentally, it is not the best practice but also because I want to encourage the plant to drive its roots deep into the ground to find water. The exception is newly planted trees and shrubs and emergencies - where you can see a plant is seriously in trouble.
If you want to know whether or not you can water the garden at all, then the information is available here:
As plants finish flowering you should deadhead them to encourage a further flush of flowers UNLESS (there is always an unless when you try to offer gardening guidelines) you want to keep the seed heads - either for ornamental purposes or because you want to collect the seeds. The echinacea photographed at the beginning of this blog flowers only once, but the seedheads remain in place, looking beautiful in their own way. In the autumn I collect some to sow and the birds eat the rest.
Continue weeding....need I say more. I don't care what The Chelsea Flower Show tells us weeds is weeds (ie plants which are growing where you do not want them to) and you do need to manage them.
Propagate from softwood cuttings. If you want plants for free - or you want to replicate a plant you love, then some can be propagated by taking softwood cuttings at this time of year. The easiest thing to do is follow the guidelines for salvias, which I wrote a blog about recently: https://www.jardinpaysan.com/post/simple-salvias .
The textbook method is to take the cuttings and push them into a pot containing a light compost mix, Cover the pot with a clear cover (I use an upturned plastic container) and keep them in a cool sheltered corner of the garden, ensuring that they stay moist. Some will root and can be planted out later this year. As a general rule not all of them will root, so take, say, 4 cuttings and hope to get 2 plantlets. This is a very superficial guide to taking softwood cuttings, so Google the procedure for fuller information.
Continue to sow vegetables for successional crops - beans, peas, beetroot, carrots, lettuce, radishes and so on.
Pick courgettes on a regular basis. This promotes new fruit and you get the benefit of very small, tender, straight from the garden vegetables which is what growing vegetables is all about. Likewise with tiny potatoes, carrots and beetroot and baby leaves - they all taste infinitely better than anything you can buy.
Tomatoes deserve a book devoted entirely to them, and not just a few lines in a blog. However - now is the moment to ensure that they are tied in where necessary and that side shoots are pinched out where necessary. Tomatoes fall into two categories in terms of growth. Bush tomatoes are just that - they grown as a bush, need little staking and you do not pinch out side shoots. Cordon tomatoes grow as a tall thin plant which must be tied in to a stake. To stop them becoming unmanageable you must pinch out the little side shoots which develop in the leaf axils (between the main stem and the branches which bear yellow tomato flowers).
You must also feed and water tomatoes consistently and regularly. Uneven watering causes the end of the tomato to develop a flat black patch called blossom end rot.
The fruit garden is not doing as well as usual for us this year - our gooseberries and black, red and white currants have suffered this year - I suspect it is a result of the intense heat and drought last summer. We lost a couple and others are hanging on, but crops are low. On the other hand - our tayberries are fantastic and we have started to pick them. The rhubarb is doing really well and the raspberry canes, which moved entirely of their own volition into one of the raised beds in an adjacent section of the garden, are thriving. It is time to start preserving our produce. Here is a recipe for rhubarb jam, reproduced from a blog of about two years ago: https://www.jardinpaysan.com/post/things-to-do-on-a-rainy-day
Back in the flower garden, don't forget your roses. This has been a great year for roses in Aquitaine, but they will have expended a lot of energy producing those flowers and some repeat flowering roses ("remontant" roses in French) will need encouragement to continue to produce flowers. So - deadhead, unless you want to keep the hips for ornamental purposes and feed once the first big flush of flowers is over. You can use the same food as you use for your tomatoes as the principle is the same - you are wanting to encourage flowering and fruiting. Tomato food is also considerably cheaper than proprietary rose foods.
Life may not be a bed of roses for any of us this year, but we can certainly enjoy those we have to the best of our ability.