I hope that at this stage you have enough done in your garden that at least some of your Bank Holiday weekend will be spent relaxing, in your by now well organised outdoor spaces.
It should be looking well by now, but there is always more to be done! So what should we be looking out for at this stage of the year?
Keep on top of cutting your grass, probably weekly at this stage, and weed your flower beds and continue planting colourful bedding. Make sure to get your veg off to the best possible start outdoors and that anything you plant out is fed, watered and given an appropriate support (such as bamboo canes for runner beans).
Now is also the time too to be vigilant against problems with your crops:
- Look out for flea beetles on brassicas (cabbage and mustard family). Keep rows of brassicas covered with garden netting to protect against caterpillars & the cabbage white moth.
- Ward off carrot fly by covering plants with a fine woven plastic mesh or fleece.
- Slugs pose a threat, especially to newly-planted seedlings and slug controls are necessary now. There are chemical options such as slug pellets, but using these can add the poisons into the food chain if they are eaten by other insects or birds. There are more environmentally friendly options such as slug barrier tape you can put around the top of plant pots, or by sinking a tub of beer into the ground within your flower or vegetable beds, which attracts the slugs there and away from your plants (not a pleasant job to empty, but it does work!)
- Another animal friendly option to get rid of slugs and snails is to patrol your vegetable patch at dawn or dusk when they are most active, and physically collect them in a container and relocate to an area away from your garden (I pop them over the back wall into a vacant field)
- Pick yellowing leaves off brassicas promptly to prevent spread of grey mould and brassica downy mildew.
- Peas need staking with pea sticks, netting or pruned garden twigs.
- Continue to earth up maincrop potatoes.
- Hoe between rows on hot days to make sure weeds dry up and die without re-rooting or they will compete for moisture and nutrients. Weedkiller might kill or damage your crops as well as the weeds.
- Water tomatoes and peppers regularly to prevent blossom end rot – a symptom of calcium deficiency due to erratic water supply.
- There are many sprays you can buy to get rid of pests like aphids from your flowers and vegetables, but there are also many more natural variations, like making mixes using the likes of elderflower leaves and stem (*see recipe below), garlic water, water with a little washing up liquid, crushed eggshells or seaweed around the plants. There are lots of options, a quick “google” should sort you out.
*Elderflower Spray: for pest control
Take the leaves and green stem only (not flowers or woody bark) from the Elder Tree. Loosely fill a saucepan with the leaves and cover with water. Simmer for about 40 minutes. Strain liquid and leave to go cold before applying to plants using a spray bottle. Make sure to spray both sides of leaves. You can gently hose the plants first with water and then use the spray. It might take 2 or 3 applications to work. It is an insecticide and fungicide so will get rid of aphids/caterpillars, brown rust marks on leeks and any fungal issues. It will last for a few months, but make sure it is stored in a secure bottle otherwise you may get mould growing in it.
Herbs in the Garden – MINT
This week’s Herb is Mint: I do tend to think of Mint as a very fresh herb and goes well with a lot of food and drink at this time of the year.
Mint is one of the easiest herbs to grow but because of this, it can be very invasive, particularly in rich, moist soil. Bury edging to a depth of 14 inches around the perimeter of the mint patch, or simply grow the plants in pots. A single plant is plenty for a small garden, as it will quickly spread to fill its allotted space.
Mint is not often grown from seed, as it is so easy to grow from cuttings – a piece will quickly produce roots in a glass of water and can be potted up and put out in the garden in a sunny or shady spot, just remember to keep it watered. You can pinch out most flower buds to encourage more leaf growth, but do leave a few flowers for pollinators.
There are lots of varieties of mint with different flavours, from spearmint to peppermint and even ones that smell of pineapple. It works well in salad dishes such as Tabbouleh, you can add it to new potatoes or peas, or combine with sugar and white wine vinegar for a classic sauce to accompany roast lamb. You can also steep a handful of leaves in boiling water, with sugar added to taste, for a soothing mint tea and it is also delicious in cocktails such as Mohito!!
Our Flowers in JUNE
We should already be seeing the results of some early planning in our flower borders, but do remember to deadhead (removing flower heads that have finished blooming and have died off). Not only will this lengthen the display, but you can also control the flowering time of some plants. For example, if you’re going on holiday, do all your deadheading right before you go, and you’ll come home to fresh blooms.
Five summer perennials that you can still plant out in June would be
You can get these in any garden centre and pop them into pots or directly into your garden for lovely colour this summer. You can also plant more marigolds, sunflowers, cosmos, zinnias, nasturtiums, etc. – all of the annuals that usually burn out by late summer. This way, you’ll have a beautiful second flush of bloom for later in the summer.
In terms of our vegetables,
- Thin out vegetable rows that have been sown directly
- Keep raised beds well watered and feed plants with a liquid fertiliser
- Keep an eye on thirsty plants including pumpkins, squash, courgettes and tomatoes and ensure they are keep moist
- Continue to sow vegetables for a late Autumn harvest, you still have time to sow lettuce, cabbage, peas and beans. You can also sow broccoli, beetroot, carrots & parsnips
- Spray potatoes & tomatoes for blight using Bordeaux mixture or Proxalin or research natural alternatives. Listen out for blight warnings!
- Weed between rows regularly, especially younger crops
If you are lucky, June can be a month where you can begin harvesting some of the fruits of your labour in your vegetable patch. Depending on when you managed to sow any of your vegetables outdoors, there could be some very early potatoes, some strawberries or onions.
In my case, the weather wasn’t great early in the growing season, so at this stage I am just harvesting a few salad leaves, but nonetheless, I managed to get enough as the basis of a lovely Salad for dinner last night.
Now that our garden is looking beautiful 😊 it is time to get out into it to enjoy it. And one of the nicest ways to do this is to eat outdoors when we get a nice sunny day. And one of our favourite ways to do this is to have a BBQ. But, one important issue is to make sure you are safe when you are using it. So here are a few things to remember about how to staying safe when you BBQ:
BBQ Safety: So there are a number of things to think about in terms of BBQ Safety, both in terms of the BBQ itself and food being cooked. Just because you’re cooking outdoors, don’t let your good habits in the kitchen go up in smoke when you light the barbecue – you want your friends and neighbours to go home with memories of a good time, not a tummy bug to remember you by. To make the most of your barbecue, here are some top food safety tips from safefood.ie
Before you get grilling: If this is your first time barbecuing this year, give your barbecue grill a thorough clean by scrubbing the metal rack with a suitable oven cleaner or a damp brush dipped in bicarbonate of soda. And remember to rinse it thoroughly with warm, soapy water afterwards. For a Gas BBQ check your gas bottle and pipework is ok and replace pipes every 5 years.
Keep your cool: Food is away from your fridge for a longer period of time when cooking and eating outdoors which can lead to germs multiplying quickly. Keep perishable foods like salads, coleslaw and quiche in your fridge until you need them.
Before you start cooking: Make sure frozen foods are fully thawed (preferably in the fridge on the bottom shelf; which may take overnight) before you start cooking them. Keep foods you plan to cook properly chilled in the fridge or a cool box until needed. Light your barbecue well in advance – for charcoal barbecues, the flames should have died down before you start cooking.
It’s in your hands: Wash your hands before and after handling food. Remember to keep raw meat separate from cooked meat and ready-to-eat foods like salads. Always use separate utensils for handling raw and cooked meat when cooking. Never put cooked food on a dish that has been used for raw meat or poultry (unless it’s been thoroughly washed in between) Keep food covered whenever possible.
Cook with confidence: The big issue when barbecuing is making sure your food has been cooked thoroughly, all the way through. This is particularly important when cooking poultry, pork, minced and skewered meats, such as burgers, sausages and kebabs on the barbecue – while the outside may look cooked (and in some cases burnt!), the inside can still be raw.
Mind the marinade: If you use marinade with your barbeque, make sure any marinade used on raw meat is not then used as a sauce to coat vegetables or cooked meat as it will contain raw meat bacteria! If you want to use marinade as a sauce, be sure to cook it in a saucepan and bring it to a rolling boil before serving it.
Using leftovers: If you have any leftovers from your barbecue, these should not be left outside where they could be in the sun and where insects and animals could get at them. As with all leftovers, cover these foods and allow them to cool down in a cool place (your kitchen) before refrigerating within two hours of cooking and use within three days. If you’re reheating leftovers, reheat them only once until piping hot, but if in doubt, throw them out.
Enjoy your garden this Summer