Saturday, December 9, 2023


Even after a long spring and early summer in the garden there’s still work to be done, writes Hannah Genders.

We’ve all been madly gardening in the past few months, especially people who were told to stay at home, and our gardens have been so important to us, not only to keep our sanity but also as a place to meet friends and family at a safe distance. As we go into the summer months here are a few ideas to keep you gardening and enjoying your garden.

Planting up pots
This year I haven’t planted any bedding, instead I’ve decided to plant up my pots with vegetables, herbs and a few annuals that are good for bees and butterflies.
This has given me some lovely broad beans from the red flowered broad bean that I am picking now and will then replant with some kale or winter veg.
I put in some pea sticks to hold the plants as they grew and added some well-rotted home-made compost on the top.
Remember to use a peat free compost; we still need to be mindful of saving the planet and more of us need to use and order peat free compost to get the nurseries to stock it. If you want to know more about this subject, the RHS have a good advice page, so I’ve added a link at the end of this article.
Herbs and salad crops also grow well in pots, the mixed salad leaves that you plant as seed and cut off every time you need them are ideal. Like the bag of mixed salad from the supermarket, but without the bag and fresh from your garden.
Chard comes in many colours and is an attractive plant and I love to cook with spinach, so the perpetual spinach is also a good one to consider growing.
All of these can be repeat sown throughout the summer and growing rocket in pots like this, it gets less flea beetle, which keeps the leaves looking healthier.
Mint is much better in a pot than in the ground as it will take over in a border, I grow three different kinds of mint and use them for cooking and fresh herbal drinks.
If you want flowers instead of edibles, try to order plants that can be re-used in the garden. Bulbs are an obvious choice if you got them in early, but also Achellias (yarrow) and Erysimum (Perennial wallflower) – both will give you a long flower display, they will grow quite happily in a pot and can then be planted out in the garden in early autumn.

Summer pruning
As a general rule, you can prune most shrubs and climbers after they have flowered, so there are a few plants that will benefit from a prune in the summer months.
Box plants can be trimmed if you want them to have a neat habit, but there are a couple of rules: don’t cut them too hard as you want air to circulate and make sure you clean the blades of your shears between pruning different plants to avoid box blight which is a fungal disease and will devastate many plants if it gets hold.
Ceanothus can be pruned in July, the evergreen Ceanothus don’t need pruning regularly but can be neatened up with a light prune now. The small Hebes like Hebe pinguifolia and Hebe rakaiensis, again, don’t need much pruning, but as they are mainly grown for the shape and leaf, trim off the dead flowers now and cut out any dead branches from the winter, but don’t cut them back too hard.
Another shrub I regularly forget to prune is Weigela, but it will flower much better if you do, so immediately after flowering, cut back the flowered stems to a side shoot that has produced flowers.
Old plants that have become very woody can be rejuvenated by completely taking to the ground one out of every three stems.
Roses that have finished flowering, will all benefit from being deadheaded regularly, this particularly applies to the gorgeous English roses that are damaged by rain.
The climbing plants that will benefit from a prune now are Wisteria. This will have flowered in spring and then produced long, wiry tendrils all over the plant. If you don’t want it to increase in size and want lots of flowers next year, remove this growth to within six leaves from where they join the main stem.
Honeysuckle which can easily get very woody should be pruned now, cut back to three or four leaves on this year’s growth, where you can see it has flowered, this pruning will encourage more flower for next year and less leaf growth.

The vegetable garden
I am continuing with my no-dig vegetable garden and I’ll write more about it in a future article. We are now at our second planting season, the beans and peas have cropped, so I will clear the ground without digging it over and plant up with kale, leeks and brassicas. The compost we added early in the year will continue to feed this second crop, although I have had a problem with couch grass in one bed so I will add some more cardboard and compost on top.

Watering in well is important to help the plants establish.

Tidying up
With all the time we have had on our hands, here is just one plea, don’t tidy up your garden too much. Most wildlife like a messy corner with a few rotting leaves, wood piles and stinging nettles, even in a small garden an untouched corner will benefit our native flora and fauna.
If you want to add some habitat, try a hedgehog box. As long as the hedgehog can roam from your garden to your neighbours you may get a visitor. See the peat-free argument.

Hannah Genders
Hannah Genders
Hannah has written about Gardening for The Village magazine for 20 years.
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