First published by Rattan Direct on 17 June 2016.
Keep the hoe moving
Gardening’s routine creates the security for fruit and vegetables to grow in the best way possible. It provides the framework within which amazing and unexpected things sometimes happen. And routine actually cuts down the amount of work you have to do. That just has to be good!
Keeping the hoe moving between the rows of your carefully sown vegetables and carefully planted fruit, whether you can see any weeds or not, will stop most weeds in their tracks just after they germinate. You won’t be bothered with having to weed out larger, tougher and more brutish specimens later. Hoeing will also introduce a bit of air into the soil and make it receptive to rain when it comes. Sharpen your hoe (I use a narrow Dutch hoe) or get it sharpened and then slice through, just under the surface of the soil. Hand hoes are great for flower beds without a lot of groundcover.
Even if you don’t know what weeds look like, it’s easy to do this when you’ve sown your seed in rows because you can see where the weeds are. With experience you can, of course, tell what’s a weed or what’s not required.
But I’m always learning. Read on.
Part of gardening’s routine is observation. Looking to see what’s the same, and what’s different. It must have been about three weeks ago that I noticed something growing in my row of carrots that didn’t have the distinctive feathery leaves of the other emerging carrots. And I didn’t recognise it straightaway so I allowed it to grow on and soon it was joined by three friends. They were ‘volunteer’ squashes, seeds from bought vegetables which survived the compost heap and germinated.
Some volunteers are good to have. They choose where to grow rather than following your (occasionally not very good) ideas and they can produce good harvests. But volunteers don’t always grow true to form and they sometimes carry viruses. I think my volunteer squash plants probably had mosaic virus so they had to come out. I’m pleased that I satisfied my curiosity about what the plants were but very happy I made the decision to get rid of them.
Water your pots and baskets
Yes, keep it up!
Water when temperatures start to drop in the evening. Less water will be lost to evaporation and the plants have the whole night to take up the moisture.
Don’t let them dry out. But if they do, add a cup of used washing up water to your watering can once every couple of weeks. This acts as a wetting agent, and water will be able to seep into all the tiny places in the soil much more readily, re-wetting areas that have dried out. A very useful tip from Nick Chenhall in a video about growing tomatoes in containers.
See our top tips on watering.
Deadhead azaleas and rhododendrons – really?
Rhododendrons and azaleas are kissing cousins, both flowering shrubs in the genus Rhododendron. They have both been looking spectacular this year (particularly good in dull light, I thought) but they are now starting to go over. Time to start deadheading so the shrubs won’t put effort into setting seed and you’ll get a good display of flowers next spring. Another good reason to deadhead is that old flowers become slimy and mouldy in the rain which could lead to fungal disease. And that’s not a good look. Use your finger and thumb to pick or snap off each dead head where it joins the stem, or secateurs to cut just below the flower head. Avoid damaging buds or any developing growths immediately below the flower.
Strange but true corner
Some people put cooking oil on their fingers to prevent themselves getting ridiculously sticky when deadheading azaleas.
And finally …
Please relax in a garden chair or stretch out on a sun lounger. Enjoy your beautiful garden.
As Mary Berry, the president of the National Gardens Scheme, said on Woman’s Hour this week:
A garden can be a quiet peaceful place. Without doubt, without hesitation, I choose gardening over the gym. Give me gardening every time. There is so much that [it] has to offer. I cannot wait to get into the garden.