1. June is the ideal month for propagating shrubs from softwood cuttings. You can root them straight into the ground using a cloche made from plastic bottles. Use this for weigela, hydrangea, ribes, hebe, deutzia and forsythia, amongst others. Snip soft shoot tips off the parent plants and remove the lower leaves. Make a clean cut across the base of the stem just below a node (the join where a leaf joins the stem). The cutting should be 3-4inches long. Dip the base of the cutting in rooting powder and place them in prepared ground approximately 6inches apart. Water them in and then cover each cutting with a mini-cloche made by cutting a plastic drinks bottle in half. Use the top half as the cloche and keep the cap fastened to start with, allowing build up of humidity inside. After a couple of weeks you can remove the cap to let some fresh air in as the cuttings begin to take root. Three to four weeks after that you can remove the bottle for a few hours every day, making sure to replace it overnight. Thus the cuttings gradually acclimatise to the outside air conditions.
2. You can also take rose cuttings (as above) but wait until the shoots are a little larger about 6-8 inches long. Nip the growing tip out because rose tips are very soft and fragile and more susceptible to disease. Place half a dozen cuttings around the edge of an 8inch pot filled with seed compost. After watering, cover them with a large, loose polythene bag and place them in a good light but out of direct sunlight. Water as needed. By autumn you should have well rooted cuttings ready to pot individually. Grow them on in pots until they are approximately the size you would buy from a garden centre.
3. New dahlia plants should be in the ground now. Ensure they are well protected from slugs. Pinch out the tips of young plants as they grow, to make them bushy. Before growth becomes too heavy, tie them in with strong stakes. A good, thick mulch will help keep the ground around them damp.
4. Time to harvest and store spring bulbs. Those that are happy to be left in the ground all year round include – daffodils, snowdrops, bluebells. Once their foliage dies back they can be safely left and forgotten about. Some bulbs prefer to be lifted, dried off and stored in a cool shed over summer. Spread these in shallow trays or hang them in netting – whatever you can do to ensure there is plenty of air circulation. Tulips and hyacinth hail from hot, dry countries where, over summer, the ground dries out and ‘bakes’ them. Over here if they aren’t allowed to dry out they rot or get attacked by larvae which allow bacteria in. If lifting your enormous drifts of spring tulips seems like too much work, ensure they are planted deep (9 inches), this makes them more resistant to rot and pests. Any bulbs grown in containers must be lifted as no doubt you will use the container for something else. Dig them up, dry them out and then re-home them in their container in autumn.
5. Plant outdoor tomatoes. Each plant should be furnished with a sturdy stake, unless it is one of the more sprawling bush varieties. The bush varieties need no pinching out, other types need to be looked over once a week. Tweak out the shoots that develop in the leaf axis of the main stem. Using a feed high in potash (Tomorite) helps to produce more flowers/fruit. Watch out for yellowing leaves as this means a magnesium deficiency – too much feed and not enough water. Easy to rectify.
6. Sow beetroot, carros and peas. Add a nice thick layer of mulch to thirsty crops such as tomatoes, courgettes and cucumbers. Soak the ground first and then carpet with mulch.
7. It’s approaching Wimbledon which means one thing – strawberries! The first crop should be appearing now. When you pick them don’t just pull off the fruit leaving the calyxes attached to the plant – this leaves tiny traces of fruit behind which encourages mould which spreads to your remaining fruit. Nip off the whole strawberry with a short piece of stalk attached.
8. Your first new potatoes should make an appearance this month too. Using your fingers have a good rummage around in the soil and you will soon be able to feel the spuds. Winkle out the biggest to eat now and leave the others where they are to keep growing. They will bulk up very quickly and in a few weeks you will be able to dig up the entire plant. Work a fork underneath it to lift both roots and spuds and then have a good feel around in the soil to ensure you haven’t left any precious potatoes behind. Serve with butter, black pepper and a some chopped mint. Delicious!
9. Take cuttings from tender perennials. Pelargoniums, fuchsias are the easiest to try as they root easily and grow quickly. Select a strong, healthy shoot about 3-4 inches long for pelargoniums and about 1-2 inches for fuchsias. Snip the shoot cleanly with a sharp knife and then remove the lower leaves. Cut base of the stem below lowest leaf joint. Dip the end into rooting powder. Tap off the surplus and then, with a pencil, insert the cutting into a pot of seed compost to about half it’s length. You can put 4-5 cuttings in a 4 inch pot. Water them in well and label. Fuchsias like humidity so slip the pot inside a large, loose polythene bag. Pelargoniums are naturally more drought-tolerant so prefer to be left in the open air to root. Stand the pots in a shady place and check the cuttings after 6-8 weeks; when rooted put each one up individually.
10. Start deadheading! Roses particularly benefit from regular deadheading. This will have a great effect on their second flush of flowers on late summer. Petunias too need regular preening to keep them blooming prolifically.