Now the clocks have changed and we are having an unseasonably dry April, it is time to start planting out and finishing late spring pruning. This blog is part of the ‘Jekka’s Seasonal Tips’ series that also include early spring and autumn & winter.
There is now plenty to do in the garden as it comes alive and you can reap the rewards of those wet cold months when you prepared the ground, weeded and protected your plants. Fortunately, even if you stayed inside during the cold months, there is still time to create a wonderful Summer Garden. Now is the perfect time to sow seeds and take cuttings.
Gardens, horticulture and “growing your own” are becoming increasingly popular as more people are returning to their gardens, sometimes finding forgotten spaces, during this unprecedented period. Nothing is more joyous than seeing seedlings that you care for thrive, both from a health & well-being perspective and also for the ability to add culinary flavour to your home cooking. Just having a pot of parsley or coriander to add to your dishes or simply to use as a garnish adds another dimension to your food as well as providing untold health benefits. Check out Jekka’s Guide to Culinary Herbs or Jekka’s Guide to Medicinal Herbs for more information.
Returning to your herbs or your garden in general, these are some of the tasks you should be accomplishing or thinking about:
- Trim and cut back perennials. This is the perfect time of year to remove all last years woody growth that has been protecting the new growth over the winter, for example Creeping Savory and the Nepetas. It is also time to prune and trim all the Myrtaceae plants; you can be bold with your pruning as it will grow off old wood.
- Look after your plants in containers. These should now be producing new growth. Trim to maintain shape and ensure you water and feed weekly with a liquid fertliser, we use Maxicrop. For the more established herbs in containers it might be beneficial to pot up into bigger pots or top dress with new compost.
- Sow or maintain your herbs from seeds. For those seedlings already germinated you should be able to prick them out, pot on or plant out. We are often asked how far should you thin the seedlings, if you have managed to control your sowing so you only sow a few seeds per pot then you will not need to disturb them. However, with herbs such as Oregano where the seed is minute, you will need to thin them, especially if you have a big clump, otherwise they will be prone to ‘damping off’.
Jekka’s top tip is to use tweezers if this happens, each seedling needs to be able to breath so make sure it is not touching another seedling.
When the ground is warm to the back of your hand you can sow directly outside. Jekka’s list of herbs that you could sow are Borage, Chives, Chervil, Coriander, Dill, Fennel and Sweet Marjoram. Obviously you can add any others you wish to use or replace.
- Watering. If you have sown seeds outside in your gardens or allotments, the seed beds must remain just moist, so watering every second day during dry weather is essential.
- Time to take herbs from cuttings. With the abundance of new growth, it is the perfect time to take softwood cuttings, but make sure you take from none flowering shoots. Plants you could propagate are Mints, Oreganos & Marjorams, Savory, French tarragon and Thymes. But only take cuttings from plants that are not about to flower. Check out Jekka’s video on taking cuttings for the best technique.
- Fresh herbs available for use in the kitchen. Our favourites are the first sprigs of Mint for your mint sauce, or to cook with your new potatoes, and Sweet Cicely to add to your Rhubarb Fool. Also, in abundance are Coriander, Parsley, Dill and Chervil.
Jekka's late spring & early summer action list:
- Cut back Lemon Verbena to the lowest growth node as soon as new shoots appear to encourage even growth.
- Pot up mints.
- Keep a watch for a sudden late frost and be prepared to protect tender herbs or new growth.
- The annuals will need thinning.
- Tender and half-hardy plants should be hardened off under a cold frame or beside a warm wall.
- Nip out the growing tips of this year’s young plants to encourage them to bush out.
- Clip box hedges and topiary shapes as needed.
- A new herb garden should be weeded thoroughly to give the new plants the best chance.
- Newly planted plants must have a thorough drink. When the soil is dry we use an old technique called puddling where we prepare the planting hole, fill with water and let it drain. We make sure that the plant has been well watered prior to planting, then, once planted, water again. It is far better to soak around the roots once a week there after rather than spraying with a hose every day. This will encourage the roots to grow down resulting in a stronger plant with a deeper root system that is able to access water and nutrients locked up deep in the soil.
Sign up to our newsletter or follow us on Instagram @jekkasherbfarm for more tips. When we are able we will also be running our Master Classes and Herb Experiences for more hands on techniques.