Starting to see the fruits of your labour? It’s the month of the year where we as avid vegetable growers are waging a war against weeds and pests, but at the same time harvesting greens, strawberries and the first of your tomatoes which makes all the preparation and maintenance worth it.
Take a trip to flower shows around the country for inspiration including Gardeners’ World Live from 16 to 19 June. There are nurseries from around the country including VegTrug that will be displaying new crops and innovative accessories to make easy and efficient crop-growing.
Enjoy the start of summer…
Jobs to do...
Now that temperatures have risen outdoors it’s an ideal time now to sow seeds of the cucurbit family (including squashes, pumpkins and cucumbers) for sturdy plants that will be ready to transplant outdoors by the middle of June for summer to autumn harvests.
Fill 9cm pots with seed sowing compost and place large seeds on their sides. This reduces their chances of rotting in the soil if the weather is cool and the soil is too wet. The water will run down through the soil away from the seeds as opposed to sitting on top of them if sown horizontally.
Keep well watered on a sunny windowsill or in the greenhouse to germinate within 5 days and to plant on in around a fortnight.
Seedlings of tomatoes are ready to plant in their permanent positions once the seedlings have developed into young plants and there is evidence of the first flowering stems.
If your seedlings are tall and leggy, be sure to plant them as soon as possible for successful plants, but plant them a little deeper than normal to provide better anchorage and support.
For cordons, make sure plants have adequate support so you can tie stems in as they grow. Bush tomatoes, such as ‘Montello’ are bush varieties that branch freely on shorter but more abundant stems. Place cordon plants around 40cm (16in) apart so they have plenty of air and space. Bush tomatoes can be planted around 20cm (8in) apart.
Now’s the time to take a look at your crop of broad beans to see if the lowest flowering stems have formed small pods. If so, pinch out the growing tips of the bean plants which will tell the plants to promote fruit-set as oppose to producing further lush, green growth.
The added advantage to this is that you’ll be reducing problems of blackfly – a notorious allotment pest. Keep the tips for excellent garnishing for soups and light meals. Eat raw, steamed or lightly fried.
Now that you have sown sweetcorn and the seedlings are growing strong they’ll be ready to plant out by mid-June if you ‘harden them off’ now. Place them outdoors by day and bring them in on a night or keep them in a cold-frame which is ventilated by day and closed by night.
This way you’ll be training your plants to grow weather-hardy and robust rather than producing weak, sappy growth if they are kept under heat at all times.
Weeding will be big on the priority-list in your kitchen garden due to our rainy April and May this year and our warm, sunny spells between the downpours.
Hoe off the annual weeds such as hairy bittercress and chickweed, exposing the weeds to the sun after they been hoed to the surface- they’ll soon wither in the sun, ready to be collected.
Perennial weeds such as perennial nettle and dandelion have deep roots or tap roots that you’ll need to remove fully to eliminate the problem. Spot-treat individual perennial weeds with glyphosate to kill the plant from root to tip.
Your cabbages and other brassicas are perfect venues for cabbage white butterflies to lay their eggs which hatch to reveal hungry caterpillars that will decimate the leaves.
Pigeons and doves are fond of brassica leaves too and will strip them in no time given the opportunity. Cover crops with a protective netting and consider bird-scarers which offer some degree of protection.
If you are growing cordon tomatoes you‘ll need to provide adequate support for your plants as the stems grow as the season continues. Bamboos positioned at each station are helpful. As your tomato plants grow keep the main stems growing by the bamboos, by tying with loose twine at intervals of 20cm (8in).
As the main stem grows they will produce leaves and side-branches. At the angle between the base of the side-branches and the main stem, you may notice more green stems growing from here. These are to be nipped out as soon as you notice them as they divert the plant’s attention away from producing abundant healthy fruit.
Warm temperatures not only encourage your crops to grow but also encourage populations of garden pests. There are a number of pests to watch out for at this time of year, particularly aphids on lush, green stems and whitefly that may appear in your greenhouse.
Aphids are a food source to ladybirds so encourage ladybird populations to flourish by introducing lots of pollen-rich plants. Introduce a ladybird colony into your garden too and invest in a year-after-year pest-control.
Biological control Encarsia formosa, parasitic wasp will keep your whitefly populations under control. Whitefly attack a number of greenhouse crops including tomatoes and cucumbers so this biological control is a perfect pest-killer.
With warm weather, rain and sun it’s a month of keeping on top of weeds, watching out for pests and diseases and providing support for growing crops. Here are some jobs we’re doing;
Add our Organic Extra concentrate Farm Yard Manure with seaweed extract to areas prior to planting. Just two handfuls per square metre/square yard will add nutrition and open the soil, perfect for pre-planting.
Keep asparagus beds well weeded. These are in the second year and will produce even more succulent stems in the third year in you leave them for one more year.
Harden off pea shoots outdoors to produce tough, weather-resistant plants that will give a good harvest. Cover with netting to keep pests away.
Mulch strawberry plants like ‘Marshmello’ (pictured) now that they’re in flower. Straw will keep developing strawberries dry and rot-free and keep weeds down.
Tomato ‘Montello’ are ready to plant in their permanent position once they are showing multiple green stems. If tall and leggy plant them deeper to ensure good anchorage.
Top breeding work in the growing world has produced some fantastic crops with high yields and impressive disease resistance. Nurseries and growers around the country have cross-fertilised the parents of different varieties to produce progeny (offspring) with excellent traits from both parents.
Tayberry Buckingham Thornless - A cross between a blackberry and raspberry. Tayberry Buckingham Thornless is very vigorous, producing high yields of sweet aromatic berries from July onwards. Berries are exceptionally good for freezing.
Loganberry Thornless - A cross between a blackberry and red raspberry. With fruit of impressive size and flavour, loganberry plants have thornless stems and are heavy cropping and vigorous. Delicious eaten straight from the plant. Make beautiful crumbles in summer.
Jostaberry - A cross between a gooseberry and blackcurrant. In appearance the jostaberry is very like a blackcurrant but with fruit twice the size. Can be grown against a wall or trellis in a fruit garden. These colourful fruits are perfect for growing on your patio or balcony too.
The best tips and trouble-shooting for hybrid berry plants
Hybrid berry plants are by nature tough, hardy and vigorous which means they won’t cause you many problems in developing good amounts of delicious fruit. However follow these tips for sound cultivation.
- Feed plants with a generous amount of manure or bulky compost in spring and water well.
- Prune fruited stems after harvests to keep plants well ventilated and under control. Chop up stems and add to the compost heap.
- Keep surrounding areas well weeded to prevent competition from other plants of water and nutrients in the soil.
Exclusive to Marshalls – rhubarb ‘Rosenhagen’ – Get our recently-reintroduced variety, lauded for its health benefits.
It contains up to three times less oxalic acid than other varieties which is great for growing kids. Oxalic acid attacks calcium, essential for development and healthy bone-growth – so a low oxalic acid content is great news.
Plant it now in deep loamy soil to develop over summer and harvest in spring next year.
Name our new strawberry
It’s NEW and exclusive to Marshalls, strawberry ‘EM1592’ is the latest variety, sweet, succulent and uniform and fruits under a protective canopy of leaves, which prevents the fruit from rotting.
We want you to come up with a name for this variety so enter our ‘Name the Strawberry’ competition and you could win £50 Marshalls gift vouchers. For a chance of winning, please send us your suggested name to either firstname.lastname@example.org or Marshalls, Alconbury, Huntingdon PE28 4HY.