Garden Gnome is back with his top organic gardening tips for a productive summer.
Sunshine and warmth brings rapid growth; lots of nitrogen and potassium will have been washed out by the excessive winter rains so a bit of a boost is required, especially for fruiting and flowering crops and other plants. We can top dress with the seaweed meal and organic potassium that we got at Seedy Sunday, and we can liquid and foliar feed too: home-made comfrey and nettle liquid or organic tomato feed.
The weeds will be growing strongly too: hoe, hoe, hoe!
If you haven’t planted out seedlings e.g. beans, courgettes, sweetcorn, get them in quick, and you can now sow them directly into the ground; water well on planting then draw dry soil around them to prevent evaporation and deter molluscs (though if you are infested with them this is the moment to use organically acceptable slug pellets, or try a mini mulch of spent coffee grounds). Successional sowing of dwarf beans, lettuce, beetroot, etc. can be done now. It’s still a bit early to plant out leeks (poor and slow germination and growth for many of us). I wait until I’ve harvested my early spuds then plant the leeks 6 inches deep in the freshly dug and weeded soil when they are about the thickness of a pencil. (Late June).
We may be able to start harvesting baby new potatoes, carrots, beetroots, broad beans, peas, lettuce and other salad crops as well as Japanese onions planted in the autumn. Also its time to plant out cabbages, Brussels sprouts, artichokes and cardoons.
Remember to leave as little bare soil as possible, sow green manure if you have nothing to transplant; buckwheat, fenugreek, phacelia, trefoil, mustard (check out our Green Manures and members trial for more info on what to plant when & where). Mulch on moist soil to preserve moisture and prevent weeds.
If the weather in August is warm and wet then potato blight is likely. Cut off bighted haulms (potato foliage) at the first sign of blackening (the haulms can be composted), and earth up spuds which can be lifted a couple of weeks later. Put any diseased potatoes in the dustbin not the compost; keep the rest in paper sacks in the dark and check them often for rotting.
Hedges can be trimmed once the birds have left their nests and the flowers are over, unless you have plants which bear berries – leave these for harvesting for jams and jellies, or just for the birds. Any shrubs, fruit trees and bushes planted during the last year need watering during dry spells.
Prune shrubs that have flowered already. Next year’s flowers grow on stems made over this summer; the rule of thumb is: if it flowers before midsummer then cut back after flowering; if it flowers after midsummer cut back in early spring (flowers form on fresh fronds).
And remember – the garden is a place to relax as well, so take some time to sit and enjoy the fruits of all your hard labours!