Sow cape gooseberries – yum! They are very easy to grow, with fruit ready to eat in about three months from sowing. Children love them, not least for the fun of picking them from the bushes where they hang like little Chinese lanterns.
Finally! In most parts of the country the weather is warm and settled enough to plant out basil, tomatoes, courgettes, eggplants, melons, pumpkins, peppers and corn. If you fear your garden is not warm enough for peppers and chillies, which love heat, grow them in containers so they can be kept in a suntrap and out of cool winds – wherever that may be.
Water in all seedlings well when planting – and try to never let them dry out. Lack of water will compromise the number of fruit that tomato plants produce. Sow leeks and parsnips. Sowings of lettuces, carrots, radishes, rocket, spring onions, beetroot are best made regularly in small quantities to ensure continuity of supply.
Meanwhile, adventurous gardeners and cooks may be sowing burdock, celeriac and salsify and purple carrots. Try also celeriac; caigua (its gherkin-like fruit can be eaten raw or pickled); kohlrabi; multi-coloured corn; celtuce… there’s a world of unusual vegetables and fruit out there.
After petal fall, treat stone fruit for leaf curl (with copper) and aphids, and apples and pears for coddling moth and powdery mildew. Because copper is toxic to bees, it is vital you do not spray until after the petals have fallen.
Sow wallflowers now and you will be inhaling their exquisite fragrance next year.
Cut back clumps of springflowering perennials to encourage a fresh flush of foliage. Likewise, when spreading and trailing plants become tatty, give them a quick trim after their first flush of flowers. Trimming them back after flowering encourages fresh growth and new flowers. Tie up climbers and ramblers if need be.
Once lilacs finish blooming, feed with well-rotted animal manure and lime.
Should any variegated shrubs throw up plain green shoots, cut them off, or risk having the whole plant revert to plain green.
Take softwood cuttings of deciduous shrubs, such as forsythia, fuchsia, philadelphus, and spirea.
Hippeastrums for Christmas
Bulbs should take six to eight weeks to flower after planting. Bulbs planted now make spectacular presents. For flowers this season, buy the largest bulbs as the small, rooted side bulbs from established plants take up to three years to flower. Plant bulbs with their neck and shoulders above the surface in coarse, bark-based potting mix with a handful of sheep pellets and a sprinkle of Nitrophoska Blue. Don’t use too large a pot as they flower best when root bound. Boost with a lownitrogen plant food in the run-up to flowering. They do best in pots outside in a warm, sheltered spot.
Once flowering has ended, remove flower spikes, leaving about 10cm. Keep the pot in a sunny position, water through summer and, when the leaves start dying back, put the pot on its side in the shade to prevent waterlogging. At the first sign of leaves in spring, turn upright again and move back to a sunny position. Scrape out surplus soil and clean the bulbs, then sprinkle with a small amount of Nitrophoska and some sheep pellets, then top back up with fresh soil. Start watering again when leaves begin to appear.
– Mary Lovell-Smith
Cape gooseberries come in their own papery wrapping.