The warmth of the summer sunshine makes it the ideal time to enjoy your garden. As we look ahead to the official start of summer on 21 June, the long-awaited season of longer lighter days is when many gardens look their best, filled with colour and fragrance.

Whether you planted young seedlings in spring and can now enjoy seeing your efforts burst into bloom, or you’re looking for fast floral additions, Dobbies' Horticultural Director, Marcus Eyles, shares his top tips to get gardens looking their best.

Early summer gardening action plan…

Planting out 
Once bedding plants raised from seed or young plants have been hardened off in a cold frame or a sheltered spot over a period of 7 to 10 days, they can be planted out. More tropical feature plants such as Canna and ornamental bananas can also be planted now. 

You should remain vigilant of any late frosts or cold snaps and protect plants accordingly. In colder areas of the country, it may be wise to wait until early to mid-June.

Smart watering 
Watering is key during peak summer months when your garden is less likely to get what it needs naturally from rainwater. Early morning is the optimal time to water plants, avoiding the hottest part of the day when this will quickly evaporate and allowing a chance for plant roots to take in what they need. 

Late afternoon or early evening is also good for watering, so that the plants have time to drink up the water before the heat of the following day.

Make sure water is directed at the base of plants, rather than over the top, to ensure the water gets to where it is needed, and you don’t damage any flowers. 

Water newly planted shrubs and perennials in dry periods, mulching well to help retain moisture. Adding liquid fertiliser, as per the manufacturer’s instructions, every fortnight to feed plants grown in containers and hanging baskets will help for healthy growth. 

Light work of weeding 
Warmer temperatures will herald the appearance of weeds in flower beds and borders. The quickest and easiest way to control them is to hoe them off before they get chance to get established, applying a thick layer of mulch over the soil surface to help keep any further weeds at bay. Mulching with organic matter, such as garden compost, also locks in moisture and, over time, helps to improve your soil, whilst giving plants a well-needed boost.

Practical pruning 
Regularly dead-heading flower borders will extend the flowering season well into autumn, particularly for Dahlias, Roses and cottage garden perennials. 

Any early flowering herbaceous plants that have already died back can be cut back and tidied, whilst some will grow back with a second flush of foliage and flower for a late season display, such as Hardy Geraniums and Delphiniums. Spring flowering annuals, such as Forget-me-nots, will have faded now and should be lifted to make way for later summer plantings. Fill gaps with fast growing high summer bedding plants such as Dahlia, Cosmos and Nicotiana.

Prune Wisteria, cutting whippy side shoots back to around five leaves or 20cm in length. Prune spring flowering shrubs, such as Deutzia and Weigela soon after flowering has faded to prevent them becoming overgrown. Remove older branches with secateurs or loppers to allow new growth to develop as this will carry next Spring’s display.

Cottage garden plant support
In cottage gardens, make sure plant supports are in place and they’ll soon be disguised by fresh new growth. Sweet Peas should be growing strongly now. Use garden twine to tie-in growths to their supports. Once established, they will climb happily by themselves.

Take action to protect susceptible lush foliage of prized herbaceous plants, such as Delphinium and Hosta, from slug damage.

Early season herbaceous plants, such as Hardy Geranium and Oriental Poppies can be cut back after flowering to encourage re-growth of tidy, fresh new foliage. Hardy Geraniums will often put on a second, late season flower display. Mulch and feed for an extra boost. Clematis montana can be cut back after flowering to control growth if required. Also, tie in new growth on summer flowering Clematis and Honeysuckle.

Dead-head Roses to encourage repeat flowering. Feed them with Rose fertiliser and add a layer of mulch for an extra boost to support strong growth and a floriferous display. Roses are at their peak in June, making it the perfect time to choose new varieties to add to your summer display. We have a vast range of our new own brand roses now in store. 

Show lawns some love 
Lawns are put under extra pressure during high summer months, but established lawns that dry out and have brown patches will recover with some TLC and when rain returns - so don’t panic if they do. 

Regular mowing is best for a healthy lawn, increase the cutting height to help prevent scalping and this will help stop the lawn from drying out. Keeping the blades slightly higher will also help the grass resist the extra summer wear from garden games and stay at home picnics. For a lovely, lush green lawn, apply a high nitrogen summer feed. 

Why not leave some areas of grass to grow to allow wildflowers to flourish, supporting wildlife and pollinating insects.

Wildlife wellbeing 
Provide a wildlife haven with the addition of bird feeders, bird baths topped up regularly with fresh clean water and shady shelter. Encourage bees and butterflies with plenty of plants that will attract pollinators, such as Aster, Cosmos, Verbena and herbs like Sage, Mint, Rosemary and Thyme that will also attract Bees. 

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