A juicy gem in the gardener’s calendar, June offers sowings, sunshine and succulent produce galore
Nothing heralds early summer like the first early potatoes. It pays to cut down the haulm (stems) completely a week or two before harvesting to harden the skins (great for cooking and preventing fork damage when lifting). Some varieties produce flowers, so you know when they’re ready, but if you’re not sure – lift a plant and see how large the tubers are. Once ready fork out carefully and dry them in the sun. I like to grab a small bag every time I visit the plot, rather than harvest in one go. Serve simply with butter and freshly chopped chives – that’s it, nothing else needed.
Sow Florence fennel
Glorious in summer stews or salads. Sow direct into fine, moist soil at a depth of 13mm and thin to 30cm between seedlings. Carefully earth-up halfway up the stem to encourage the bulbs to swell and keep the soil moist in dry weather. You should have a crop in around 14 weeks.
Now’s the time to take your herb patch to the hairdressers. Give mint, chives, sage, thyme and lovage a short back and sides in order to cut away old or damaged leaves, and encourage the lush new growth of baby leaves for the kitchen.
Sow a French bean house
Forget boring old rows and create a shady tepee house for picnics at the plot. Firmly insert eight 2.5 metre canes (or taller if you can get them) into the ground in a circle big enough to sit in, and tie them securely at the top with wire, string or an 8-cane topper. Plant one French bean at the base of each cane (keep a few back to replace ones that don’t make it) and water in well. Tie in the tendrils at first until your house is covered, and add nasturtium for colour.
Smell the roses
At their peak in June, there are plenty of jobs to keep roses looking their best this month. Be alert to aphids and pick them off when you can (or grow companion plants such as calendula nearby, which will attract aphid-eating hoverflies). Dead head and remove weed seedlings (roses hate competition) and feed with slow-release organic fertiliser to make the most of the beautiful flowers.
Make a mini pond
You don’t have to have a big plot to have a water feature and a pond of any size can still attract a varied amount of wildlife. Buy an extra large trug (and cut the handles off it) or a half-barrel, and dig a hole in the ground the same depth and height of your container. Insert the container into the hole, making sure it is level with the surface, and pile up some bricks or stones inside, on one side – again level with the surface – to encourage amphibians to get in and out. Fill with water and decorate with miniature water lilies and spiky submerged grasses such as Umbrella Sedge. On the margins, create a ‘paved’ area with polished pebbles (perfect for frogs to sunbathe on) or seashells, and add pretty flowers such as Water Forget-Me-Not to soften the edges and hide the container.
Make a Mean Green Hummus
Shell 250g (1/2lb) each of broad beans and peas and bring to the boil in a pan of water. Simmer for five minutes, or until tender, and drain. Set aside the peas but quickly refresh the broad beans in cold water and pop them out of their skins. Blitz in a food processor with 2 crushed cloves garlic, the juice of 1/2 lemon and 2tbsp oil. Add salt and pepper to taste or a little more oil until you get a coarse paste. Lavish on toasted bread with balls of fresh mozzarella.