Early summer garden tips

June 5th, 2021 Posted In: Gardening know how

One of the odd things about early summer is that I always have to start thinking about what I should take out of my garden rather than what I need to plant.

Weeds, of course, are growing as fast as they ever will. Now is definitely the time to wage war on them, provided you accept it is a war you will never win. You can only stave off the invasion, not destroy the invaders.

I’ve rounded up various garden experts on weeding in this post here. But it is important, I think, to come to terms with the fact that if you have an outside space, then you will have to weed it.

Perennial weeds

The two most persistent perennial weeds in my garden.

But surely there are low maintenance options…?

You can cut down the work in your garden in various ways. You can plant mainly shrubs, perennials and grasses, so that you don’t have to sow from seed, pot on, prick out, dead-head and then dig up at the end of the year. You can choose plants that are resistant to drought so you can cut down on watering. See more about low maintenance garden plants here.

You can cover your ground with mulches. Gravel, pebbles, pavers, garden compost and weed suppressant horticultural fabric will all slow down the appearance of weeds, especially in the first few months after they’re laid.

But perennial weeds will wriggle round any obstacles. And annual weed seeds are dropped from birds or blown in on the wind. They settle on top of the mulches and usually manage to grow.

I have even seen weeds growing out of two artificial lawns in front gardens near here. One was a massive bramble. Both ‘lawns’ are just a few years old, if that.

So weeds, like death and taxes, will always be with us. Particularly in early summer.

And nothing beats hand weeding or hoeing. Sprays always drift onto other plants, and there are concerns about the chemicals in them.

If you see a weed, just pull it out. If you wait until the weekend, there will be 10 of them at this time of year.

Thin out self seeders in early summer

I love self-seeding plants. They really save me time, effort and money. At this time of the year, the garden is full of self-seeders, such as alliums, euphorbia, wild gladioli and cerinthe. And next month’s poppies, crocsmia and lychnis coronaria are popping up.

But self-seeders can crowd out the plants you planted deliberately. They are all now big enough. You can see which is which. So early summer is a good time to thin them out, especially around hungry plants like roses.

I am always so grateful that a plant has chosen to grow in my garden. I feel terrible about wrenching out self-seeders.

But if you leave them to crowd out roses and dahlias, then your roses and dahlias will be disappointing later. I know. I’ve done it.

See here for my 25 favourite self-seeding plants.

Cerinthe major

Cerinthe major is one of my favourite self seeding annuals, and it’s one of the few flowers that comes out with the tulips and the roses. But it can take over the border!

And the ‘spreaders’…

Some perennials can spread so well that they seem to take over the world. In my garden, that’s Euphorbia robbiae, iris sibirica, Japanese anemones and day lilies. There were gaps in the border a month ago. Now there is a sea of euphorbia interwoven with day lily foliage.

Which is rather attractive, but underneath them there are dahlias and cannas trying to come up. And I have learned, from bitter experience, that if you allow roses to be swamped by other perennials, then you get black spot on the leaves and hardly any flowers. I also want to plant more dahlias.

It is  wrench to pull out healthy plants but if there is to be anything to look at from July onwards, then now is the time to do it.

You can eat the day lilies, by the way. Their leaves stir fry nicely. There’s a post about that here, but do remember that day lilies are NOT lilies and that lilies are toxic. Day lilies are Hemerocallis, and are used widely in Chinese cooking. But if you’re in any doubt, don’t do it.

Iris sibirica

Iris sibirica spread easily. All you have to do is dig them up and divide them every few years to stop them taking over.

Planting for Wildlife

This month I’ve been reading Planting for Wildlife by Jane Moore. It’s for anyone who would like to make their garden more wildlife-friendly while still maintaining the traditional look of a garden.

It’s realistic – for example, Jane says that gardening organically means allowing pests to live in your garden, which will attract the predators who eat them. ‘But manage your expectations,’ she warns. ‘Your organic garden will have holes in leaves and daisies popping up in the lawn and it will be all the better for it.’

She also says that she thinks of her garden as a woodland glade, with the areas close to the house looking more managed and tidy. Further away, she allows it to be a little wilder.

It’s readable, practical and pretty enough to be a good gift, too. Jane is herself a professional head gardener, so she really knows what works in the garden, and she’s also very good at explaining what to do clearly.

You can buy Planting for Wildlife from the Middlesized Garden Amazon store or from the publishers, Quadrille. Note that links to Amazon are affiliate, which means I may get a small fee if you buy, but it doesn’t affect the price you pay. Other links are not affiliate.

Disclosure: I bought this book myself. It was not a review copy or gifted. (It may sound odd that we have to say, but most book reviews are from gifted copies, and it’s a legal requirement to disclose that in blogs and social media Although you don’t have to if  you’re reviewing for print publications.)

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6 comments on "Early summer garden tips"

  1. Mary Ann Anthony says:

    I’m struggling with how much of my garden to “manicure” and how much to cultivate as a wildlife friendly meadow, so your advice and references are wonderful.

  2. The plant which you couldn’t name looks like greater celandine, very common in the uk.

  3. Angela says:

    I love your posts- they make the weekend. Thank you!

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