What to do in the early summer garden

The big question: What types of strawberries are best?

Credit: iStock

The big question this time of year is… 
What type of strawberries are best?

Day-neutral strawberries set fruit regardless of day length and are ideal for short growing seasons. Larger-fruited June-bearing strawberries (to me) taste luxurious; try growing both. Strawberries, like everything else, crave organic matter. Keep mulched especially when flowers begin to form. Moist soil equals more berries. Also try wild strawberries – they taste great and tolerate shade. Check garden centres or grow from seed.

What to do in the garden in May

New to growing food? Give yourself a break – start with just a couple edibles you love. Cherry tomatoes, pole beans, zucchini, kale and leeks are vigorous and rewarding. Purchased transplants make it easy, but all grow readily from seeds. 

If it’s sunny and warm, sow cucumbers, winter squash, melons (don’t grow well on the coast!) indoors. Transplant out before the third “true” leaf fully opens, usually three to four weeks after seeding. 

Plant tomatoes outside towards the end of May unless soil and weather are still cool. Tomatoes may be set back in temperatures below 50°F (10°C).

Direct-seed outdoors: beets, broccoli, carrots, cilantro, collards, corn, kale, kohlrabi, parsley, scallions, spinach, Swiss chard, turnips; also hardy ornamental annuals including such edibles as borage, calendula, nasturtium, violas (Johnny jump-ups).

Only when soil feels warm to your hand is it okay to direct-sow bush/pole beans, cukes, winter squash/pumpkins. It’s also fine to wait another week or two.

Healthy lawns are resistant
to problems including European chafer. The white grubs are a favourite food of crows – when they dig down to unearth their dinner the lawn is left looking as though it’s been rototilled. 

Want more gardening tips?

Visit Sharon Hanna’s blog >

To keep your lawn at its best: Water deeply and always in the morning once a week unless it rains. This encourages deep root growth. Place a tuna can in the firing line of the sprinkler and allow 2.5 cm (1 in.) to accumulate. 

Choose the highest setting on your mower, preferably 7.5 cm (3 in.) – this shades roots and discourages weeds from germinating. Leave grass clippings where they fall, for a free source of nutrients that helps retain water. 

Mulch raspberries in warmer zones. Roots are shallow so don’t dig. Go easy with compost or manure. Excess creates leaf growth, less fruit. 

Mulch blueberries with shredded bark or leaf compost. Avoid cedar as it contains a growth inhibitor (it’s fine for paths, though). Fir is suitable, as are chippings of deciduous trees, for mulch. Try planting tip cuttings of blueberries to start more plants! 

Prune spring-flowering perennials and you may get a second bloom.

Dhalia 'Potluck' for the spring garden
Dahlia ‘Potluck’ from Veseys.

Plant out lilies and dahlias
, “eyes” (sprouts) upwards. Ensure water flows towards them by forming a shallow indent in soil above tubers. Push in a stake beside each for support now, including a label with the name on. 

When you can sit outside at night wearing a light sweater, it’s okay to sow basil, which likes it hot and dry; seedlings easily succumb to “damping off” fungus. Water sparingly and only when needed. Knowing how much water is too much is an acquired skill. Beginners may have better luck buying plants. 

As basil grows, keep it picked. This encourages branching, and prevents flowering (going to seed).

What to do in the garden in June

Plant tomatoes deeper than their “seed” leaves. Or use the trench method, planting them sideways. The more stem you bury, the better. The tomato rights itself quickly; roots sprout along the stem for a sturdier plant.

When watering tomatoes, water the soil, not the leaves, to avoid disease. Pinch suckers (sprouts) on indeterminate types regularly or you’ll have lots of leaves and little fruit. Good support – tomato cage or sturdy stake – makes a difference. Re-useable green Velcro tape is great for attaching to supports. Tomatoes in containers require weekly feeding. 

Bitter lettuce?
This green must grow quickly to taste good. Keep soil moist, make sure water gets to roots and doesn’t “umbrella” off leaves. 

If you haven’t started squash, pumpkins and cukes already, direct-sow by the first week of June. Create a shallow indent so water flows toward the seed, especially if conditions are hot and dry.

Start seeds for purple sprouting broccoli in early June. They need to be big before winter to produce a plethora of sweet purple sprouts in spring! Six seeds per 10-cm (4-in.) pot in starter mix – you only need a few plants. Trans­plant one per pot, grow out­doors, then plug into spots vacated by beans and other finished veggies in fall. 

Transplant out: eggplant, melon, peppers, tomatoes, squash, pumpkins, cucumbers.

Direct seed outdoors: Brussels sprouts, cucumbers, broccoli, leeks, pumpkin, squash, bush and pole beans, beets, cabbage, carrots, lettuce, onions, parsnips, pumpkin, rutabagas, spinach, Swiss chard, turnips and winter veggies (on the coast). 

Keep peas picked – the more you take the more they make!