Get them in the ground
From lettuce to larkspur, the time is ripe to plant edible crops and summer flowers. And, says Mary Lovell-smith, many can go straight into the soil.
• Sow, sow, sow – in seed trays under cover and in
the garden unless the soil is too wet and cold. • Prepare beds for sowing by breaking up soil to a fine tilth. Generally, the smaller the seed, the finer the soil – but also the shallower it will be sown. • Root crops, such as carrots, will fork or have other distortions if grown in soil that is too heavy. Lighten it by adding river sand and compost, or choose a rotund, rather than cyclindrical, variety of carrot. • Sow small quantities of the likes of lettuce, radish, spring onions, carrots every fortnight or so to ensure continuity of supply, and avoid the glut/famine scenario. • Lettuce (and as a rule, most root crops) are best
sown where they are to grow. • Sow beetroot, coriander, rocket, spinach direct
into the soil. • Capsicum, chilli, corn, courgette, eggplant, melons of all sorts, pumpkin and tomato may be started now under cover for planting out later when the soil is warmer. • Plant celery and silver beet. • Early potatoes’ sprouts may be pushing up through the soil. If they are, cover them lightly with peastraw or hoe up some soil around them. Maincrop potatoes can go in this month. • Sow fruit seeds – such as cape gooseberries,
tamarillo and passionfruit – under cover.
• Plants grown in containers will welcome a top- dressing of compost to help them through the coming months of growth. • Divide summer-flowering perennials if need be – if the clump has grown too large or is looking tired, or to bulk up plants. Usually every two to three years is optimum. • Divide hostas before their leaves appear.
Divide hellebores and primulas after flowering. • Prune back to about 60cm any ornamental shrubs grown for their colourful stems (such as the red-stemmed cornus and willow) or large leaves (such as cercis, smoke bush and paulownia). Then fertilise. • Annual flowers that may be sown now directly into the garden include calendula, larkspur, marigold, nasturtium, nigella, night-scented stock, scabiosa, snapdragon and sunflower. For the bees and other beneficial insects, sow some nectar and pollen-rich flowers, such as alyssum, bishops flower, cornflower, Shirley poppies and phacelia – or try a readymade wildflower blend offered by most seed companies. • Sow perennials now for flowering next year. It’s a cheap and rewarding way to get bulk numbers of your favourite perennials.