June: slugfest

It's all happening.

Shrubs are taking off, the newly-planted trees are showing new growth, blossoms are exploding and the borders are filling up. I would love to just press the 'pause' button and hold it right there. I guess that is why we look at images of the 'perfect' garden in books and why RHS Chelsea and other shows can be so appealing. They are a taste of paradise without the back ache.

I have to say that my borders do look very green right now. Unfortunately this is partly because of the fresh weeds. I like to look at it all from a distance so I don't see the weeds and be reminded as to what urgently needs doing. There are times when I would like to see my borders from an orbiting satellite.  

A very wise and very good gardener once told me, "You shouldn't have to weed! Pack the plants in and they will cover the soil and smother the competition". Best advice I have ever had. The truth is, if you are developing a border, you are likely to have bare patches whilst plants get established.

There are several good solutions to your bald patches (although be careful who you say that to). You can sow annual seeds (Cosmos and Lavatera have been a personal favourite) or even sow wildflower seeds. Failing that, use good old compost from the heap. If you are short of all the above - get some bark chippings. The problem with bark chippings however, is that they always scatter and invariably need topping up. They are also part of a long chain of industrial processes.

So now to get up close and personal with your plants and your pests this month:

  • Cometh the spring, cometh the slugs. Whilst slug pellets are quick and easy, they poison the wildlife that eats the dead slugs. Eggshells can be used around the base of plants. Beer traps are my favourite although I have just discovered they like cider just as much: fill up a houmous carton, or similar, and they will soon be on a journey to a merry end. Copper wire and bands around pots will do the trick as well.
  • Newly planted trees and shrubs will need plenty of water and nutrients: don't be afraid to add fertiliser and generous amounts of water.
  • It is not too late to use lawn fertilizer. Be careful when you apply it: extremely dry conditions are to be avoided. 
  • Cut back any remaining foliage on spring bulbs.
  • Divide Hostas as they come into leaf.
  • Prune the shrubs that have completed their spring flowering, concentrating on the stems that have just flowered.
  • Trim evergreen hedges such as Buxus (box), Ligustrum (privet) and Lonicera (honeysuckle).
  • Caterpillars, aphids and other pests will all be trying to get into the action (and who can blame them?). Insecticide should be a last resort. Try removing them by hand or spraying a very, very diluted mix of washing-up liquid first. Having healthy, vigorous plants is the best deterrent. 
  • Prune deciduous magnolias once they are in full leaf.
  • Cut back the tender Penstemon, Caryopteris and hardy Fuchsias.
  • Thin out and cut back Clematis montana once it is over. 
  • Hoe or hand-weed the emerging weeds to keep them at bay.

And once you have put in a good session and are feeling virtuous, you can top up your booze traps, or anything else that needs topping up - if you know what I mean.


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