I wonder how many potentially brilliant summer crops fall short of expectation simply through lack of maintenance.
Whether you’ve planted tomatoes in the greenhouse border, cabbages on the vegetable patch or bedding plants in a container or high-profile display area, each is merely the first step in a season-long project.
Follow-up with watering, feeding, selective pruning, weeding and pest control if you want value for money.
Two days of heavy rainfall last week had an adverse effect on roses, resplendent in their first flush of the season.
In such circumstances those that are top-heavy with growth and blooms, bend or collapse under the weight. A climbing New Dawn in this garden was temporarily horizontal, but now stands tall again. What’s more, all those promising buds on roses in local gardens became saturated and began to rot.
The only realistic approach is to follow the stem downward from affected flowers until just above a leaf joint with solid bud, then snip. This encourages rapid new growth and a resumption of flowering within a fortnight, weather permitting.
So-called ‘dead-heading’ is an important part of growing roses. If you want favourites Just Joey and Chandos Beauty to keep going, remove blooms as soon as they are spent to stop the formation of seed-bearing hips. This triggers a natural response to produce more flowers, which extends the season.
The same principle applies to summer bedding plants, be they in containers or beds. Their annual cycle is based on germinating, developing, flowering and seeding. Pay daily attention to dead bloom removal and you keep the show on the road much longer.
Never underestimate water requirements, especially when plants are based in containers. Unlike those in beds whose roots can travel deep and wide in search of soil moisture, theirs are confined within tubs, boxes and baskets. Apart from the occasional shower of rain, they are totally reliant on you.
Feeding of container-grown plants is just as important.
The young tomatoes you introduced to fresh grow-bags, or pots filled with a fertiliser-rich compost, were adequately served in the early stages, but once the first truss of fruit has set, the demand for food increases.
At 10-day intervals, I ensure the medium our tomatoes are growing in is moist before offering a liquid feed.
The greenhouse peach, grape vines, cucumbers, peppers, and a range of potted ornamental plants, all demand the same treatment because compost they were initially planted into is now running low on NPK.
Hanging basket composts that are blessed with polymer granules capable of absorbing and releasing moisture, and slow-release fertilisers, have an advantage, but still need daily watering when the temperature soars.