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Down to Earth: Get your garden ready for summer

June is traditionally cue to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your garden labours. But this year, in the wake of all the wet weather, there are still jobs to do, writes Cambridge designer Robert Barker

Summer's soggy start means there are still garden jobs to do this June
Summer's soggy start means there are still garden jobs to do this June

June really is a strange month. It is the pivot of the year, right slap bang in the middle of the calendar and the start of summer - but it is also a time for blistering heat during the day and then risk of frost in the evenings. Obviously, the likelihood of there being frost in June is remote and more likely at the start of the month, but it has been known to happen.

I remember a client calling me once in early June, telling me that they got over-excited and planted out all their pumpkin plants - sown from seed - into their beautiful, raised vegetable garden beds that we created for them over the winter, only to find next morning that all the plants looked as if somebody had come along and sprayed them with weed killer.

That day I went to see them to check for signs of sabotage, but as soon as I saw the plants, I remembered how cool it had been the night before and the plants were simply too tender to adjust to the frost. If my clients had just managed to contain their excitement for one or two more weeks, then the pumpkins would have been absolutely fine.

According to almost every gardening publication, June is also the time to sit back and enjoy the garden, as it really is a time for you to enjoy the fruits of your labours, but in a year where the weather has been so unpredictable, I would imagine many of you are like me and the job list for the garden is overwhelming. After such a wet six months, the weeds have become a force to reckon with and it seems like lawns need to be cut on an almost hourly basis.

This year really has been a sleeping giant: with so much uncertainty with the weather, the economy and society in general, people have been forgetting the importance of being outside in their own garden spaces. In June, the Solstice arrives, and brings with it a celebration of hope, just as it has done traditionally throughout the ages.

The longest day brings with it a peak time for all gardeners, garden designers and positive-thinkers to aspire to. Summer has only just really started, heralding a sensory overload almost regardless of what is growing in our own gardens.

So, yes, normally June is a time for reflection and tranquillity, but this year it is a time to be active; to enjoy every second of being outside - to enjoy the simple pleasure of being in a garden rather than just looking at a garden.

See robertbarkerdesign.com for more.

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