We are almost half way through the year, and suddenly everything in the garden is moving at quite a pace. Only a month ago I was thinking the grass wasn’t growing too fast and now I’m cutting it almost every week. The weather is as normal, unpredictable, one minute warm and sunny, the next cool and raining.

Roses have always been a favourite of mine, although I prefer the English shrub roses with their relaxed habit and beautifully scented rose, they remind me of a typical English country garden. When I lived at home, my parents neighbour Harold, used to have a garden full of roses, mainly hybrid tea and floribunda types, immaculately kept and tended they would flower all summer long. I think that is probably where I first stumbled across their charm and distinctive scent.

Climbing and rambling roses are by now producing masses of new growth and it almost seems as though they are going to fill the garden alone. Where plants are trained on a frame or wall tie in the new shoots as they develop, and keep an eye out for new growth emerging from the bottom of the plant. These will tend to put on considerable growth over the season, the strongest of which will give you replacement stems for those that may need to be removed in autumn/winter. Roses are hungry plants so feed them with either a liquid or dry rose fertiliser, two or three times throughout the growing season, say every month during June, July and August. If we get a long dry spell water them too, washing up or bath water will do fine. As the individual flowers fade remove them as this will encourage the plant to produce more flowers. If you leave them on the plant will stop flowering and start to produce seed.

There is something about growing you own salads that is not only healthy but very rewarding and remarkably easy too. You don’t need acres of space, in fact I grow a few in pots and gutters so even if you don’t have a garden theres no excuse for not having a go. I find the packets of mixed seed are good to start off with as they produce mixed colours, shapes and tastes, some including spinach, rocket and lambs lettuce, all with quite a distinct taste but when cut and added to salads or sandwiches give a lovely fresh taste. Most of these, what we call salad leaves, will be ready to harvest 21 days from sowing maybe even a little sooner if the weather is warm. Fill a container with fresh general purpose compost, firm it lightly and sprinkle the seed across the surface as thinly as you can, you are aiming to have seed spaced about 5mm ( 1/4 inch) apart. Cover with a light sprinkling of compost, just enough to cover the seed, and water using a watering can fitted with a rose. place in a warm sunny position and within five days you should see the seed emerging, if it is cold or overcast this may take a little longer. Once the leaves have reached 75 – 100mm (3 to 4 inches) long you can start to harvest, cutting the leaves 10mm ( 1/2 inch) from the level of the compost. Leaving the plant in the compost will mean that it should re-grow providing a second and hopefully a third crop over the coming weeks. If you sow a new pot or container every four weeks through June, July and August, you will have salad leaves all summer long.

There is nothing to compare to the taste of home grown fruit, succulent and sweet it has a flavour that sadly, shop bought fruit just doesn’t have. Perhaps the most popular at this time of year is the strawberry, and I always make room for a few plants, both in the garden and in pots. If you don’t have room for strawberries, try one of the local Pick your Own fruit farms-there is bound to be one not too far away and it’s a great thing to do with children. For your own fruit garden, watering is the key over the coming weeks, as the flowers set and the fruit begin to swell, Fruit trees and bushes need extra water. If they are allowed to dry out the fruit will not develop properly and in many cases will just fall off.

Happy gardening,

Martin

(Next month, what to do if you are away on holiday, keep feeding, bargain basement plants).

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