I like to think of midsummer’s eve, the summer solstice, as the top of a mountain we glide off, riding the warmer air as we coast for the next few months toward autumn. It’s the best time of the year and there’s no reason to despair at shortening days when we have so many long evenings left that are warm enough to sit outside and watch the bats.
There are some things that if, like me, you’ve been putting off, you really must do now otherwise it will be too late for this year:
- Sow beans: French beans, including Borlotti beans, must be sown in July, preferably early. I’ve sown mine late in previous years and they’ve grown perfectly well – in fact, vigorously in the perfect conditions.
- Sow parsnips: now is your last chance for this year.
- Plant out annual flowers: now really is not the best time to be adding plants to your garden because midsummer heat and dry weather when they haven’t had time to grow deep roots equals plant death or relentless watering. However, if you have sown annuals from seed and haven’t planted them yet, you have no choice. Give them a good soak and water again when planted. Give them a deep soak once a week to encourage deep rooting rather than frequent watering. If you have perennials to go in too, you can plant these in the same way. Personally I would rather get perennials in the ground now as well to give them a chance to get roots down before winter.
- Support top heavy plants: tomatoes, dahlias and any other top heavy plant may need a cane or metal support to keep them upright. Do this before they flop to prevent damage.
Vegetables and fruit
- Sow Florence fennel: one of my favourite vegetables, now is the perfect time and they’ll grow quickly and strongly but keep them well watered.
- Protect ripening fruit: using a fine fruit netting.
- Harvest early and second early potatoes: once they start flowering or as the flowers drop, they can be dug up. Alternatively, have a little rummage at the roots and dig when the potatoes are about the size of an egg.
- Fertilise: make your own comfrey fertiliser by filling a bucket with the leaves and topping up to about two thirds with water. Leave for six weeks and then pour onto roots undiluted. Fertilise vegetables every week or two as they will be growing rapidly now. Especially crops like squash, courgette and pumpkins.
- Apples and pears: thin fruit to one every 10cm or so, this will encourage a better, healthier crop.
- Deadhead: roses, dahlias, rudbeckia, veronicastrum, monarda, geum, astrantia, sweet peas and any other repeat flowering plants. You can check if a plant is repeat flowering with a quick google search.
- Take cuttings of shrubs: salvia, culinary sage, rosemary, hydrangea, spirea, potentilla and many other shrubs can be propagated by taking 10 – 15cm cuttings of semi-hard wood. This is a new shoot without flowers which is soft and green at the top and turning a bit wood just beneath. remove lower 2/3rds of leaves, put in compost in a shady spot until they root.
- Fertilise the lawn: but only if it needs it and be very careful not to go over the stated dose, if anything, use less fertiliser, other wise you will scorch and kill it. I would only use natural fertiliser like seaweed powder or chicken manure pellets.