Summer is here and hopefully your garden flowers will be coming into bloom. Despite our somewhat increasingly wet summers, those sunny spells should see a buzz of insects. You may notice the garden birds’ plumage showing signs of wear and tear as they work hard rearing their first brood.
With the increasing chances of having a few warm days in the garden it may be worth taking the chance to consider a new project, such as planting and putting up hanging baskets or growing your own produce.
Hanging baskets are an ideal way to bring some colour to even the smallest of gardens. Flowering annuals are best suited for hanging baskets, such as nasturtiums and lobelia as these species will cascade down over the sides. However if baskets are to be displayed all year round small evergreen shrubs or herbs like heathers or thyme could be used to maintain some greenery even during the winter. It’s common to use a wire basket with a lining material to help retain the soil and water, although you can just use closed container basket which won’t need lining. Importantly if you do use a liner ensure that it doesn’t comprise of moss which has been harvested from the wild. Using peat free compost, fill your hanging basket leaving a couple inches between the surface of the compost and the top of the basket. Once planted hang out your baskets but don’t forget to water them. Hanging baskets can dry out quickly, even on quite wet days, so water them well, until water runs freely from the basket, ideally during the evening when the temperatures are cooler, allowing the plants to soak up all the water they need.
Picking your own fresh fruit, vegetables or herbs can be one of the highlights of summer gardening. In smaller gardens you could use pots and in a larger garden you may have room for a raised bed. Strawberries, cherry tomatoes, potatoes, lettuce, peas, beans, rosemary, basil, mint and thyme are all relatively easy to grow within pots or a raised bed. Pick a sunny spot and include an amount of peat free compost and before long you will be providing nectar for the bees and butterflies and eventually fresh produce for you. If growing plants from seed in June you may find that your produce will only come into full fruition by late summer, although you may find grown on plants at your local garden centre which can be harvested earlier. Alternatively you will be able to harvest leaves from the herbs and lettuces as they grow, allowing the same plants to keep growing right through the summer months.
Hopefully your gardening allies, birds, amphibians, hedgehog, ladybirds and wasps will all help keeping the slugs, caterpillars and aphids within check. It may be beneficial to accept some levels of pests within the garden as this in turn is likely to cause a subsequent increase in potential predators which will naturally control numbers. However if you do get a particular outbreak try to avoid resorting to the chemical spays which may harm your helpers just as much as the pests you will be targeting. If necessary try using more natural remedies such as beer laced traps for slugs or weak soapy water to wash aphids from any heavily affected plants.