Enjoy the first strawberries of summer. Credit: Pixabay

Gardening with Pat Duke: Enjoy the sights, smells - and tastes - of summer

Pat Duke

Every year there seems to be some plants that do better than others or better than previous years for no apparent reason.

This year, it seems to be the year of the hedge to race away.

It’s easy enough to trim a hedge with all types of machinery but this year I’m going to keep mine looking as neat and tidy as possible.

I know this feeds into the slightly obsessive part of my character but the older I’ve got the more I’ve been delighted to see a well-kept and tightly-trimmed hedge.

Take time once you’ve used the trimmer to snip off by hand any outlying stalks. Use a taut line of string as your line guide and be ruthless with anything that crosses the line.

You’ll be left with something passers by will stop and take notice.

It’s time to stake some of the taller perennials now and keep dead-heading flowers to promote more growth.

Not staking them might mean you’ll lose valuable, colourful flowers as soon as wind or rain appears leaving the garden looking like a herd of elephants or primary school children have passed through.

Leave alone any flowers that the birds like to peck away at, like members of the thistle family, for example.

Rambling roses and honeysuckle with dead wood in it can be pruned once they’ve finished flowering.

I’ve noticed honeysuckle creeping through hedges and seen it in a new light given its unusual shaped flowers and pastel-blushed shades.

I’m terrible for trying to avoid what I see as mainstream plants but I might give honeysuckle a bit more credibility.

Predictably I’ve been made keenly aware by my children that this is entirely due to the fact that I’m officially old now.

Planting sunflowers outside like I used to when they were younger is a habit I haven’t lost and it’s about time for them to go in now – but keep an eye on the slugs and snails.

Try something like Moonwalker, Vanilla Ice or Ruby Sunset for a crimson variety.

Radishes may be ready for your plate. Credit: Pixabay
Radishes may be ready for your plate. Credit: Pixabay

On the plot

Get on and harvest what you can while the sun shines and you have the appetite for salads.

Lettuce is going mad at the moment and you can still sow reliable varieties like Tom Thumb or Lolla Rossa. Both these are great if you only have a small space and they’ll keep coming as long as you pick them regularly, and why wouldn’t you?

Beetroot, carrot and radish might all be ready now so get them out and on the plate rather than just admiring them like I seem to.

If you have a gap in the veg patch you can sow another crop.

There’s plenty of time to put some peas or beans in where we live as it can be warm right through to October.

There is even still time to sow another tranche of roots.

Radish can be ready in four weeks and are the horticultural answer to the increased pace of modern life.

You could even have to wait that long for the supermarket to get them in stock, so you might as well grow some.

My wife brought the first strawberries of summer up from the veg patch this week although funnily enough I’ve not seen them since.

I grew Marshmello variety again this year, kindly given to me by a friend who had nurtured them over winter in clay soil and under straw.

They are very hardy and tolerate neglect well if you re busy.

By far the most important job in the garden at this time of year is to bask in the sunshine and take in all the sights and smells of summer.

Be thankful for how beautiful it is where we live and that whatever happens, nature will look after us.