Sweaty, scratched, bitten, decidedly grubby from head to toe, beaming inside and out with pure, unadulterated joy, I picked up the hand-woven gardening basket bulging with tools, with open and sealed seed packets, with a bunch of just-pulled radish and a crisply-fat lettuce balanced on top and headed up the flower-lined garden path towards the house and a much-needed cold shower. Utter bliss!
Another three dozen young tomato plants — Green zebra, Blue Bayou and Marmande — transplanted out into their well-prepared bed; exactly 29 more chilli seedlings — mixed varieties from home-harvested seed — inter-planted with rapidly growing radishes to maximise the use of space and water; five more courgette seeds sown to fill in the gaps where seed had failed to germinate in the courgette department; and three more Marina di Chioggia pumpkin seeds likewise, as well as a few Ananas da America sweet melon seeds sown here and there and all is well in this particular garden world.
Swallows perform incredible acrobatic feats in the balmy evening air, blackbirds serenade, a single Hoopoe, crest erect, struts its stuff on a fragrant carpet of creeping thyme as nature itself inhabits this chemical-free, 100 percent organic zone too which, in my humble opinion, is exactly how and what a garden should be.
Despite the hot weather, much sowing of flowers, vegetables and fruits can be done for the coming months
Creating and then maintaining a garden is a never-ending pleasure although, to be frank, some days when one has to do really heavy work and onerous tasks in adverse weather, it may not seem this way.
Gardeners live in sync with seasonal rhythms, seasonal sounds and sights and aromas; they tune in and are turned on by the intricacies and needs of plant life and of the soil structure that supports it all.
Just like the plants they grow, nurture and love, the life of a gardener is suffused with wonder, grounded in patience, stitched together by belief.
Planting guide for June
Flower: Bright splashes of French marigolds (Tagetes) which double up as excellent pest control when planted here and there in the vegetable and herb garden where their particular aroma drives away many above-ground pests whilst excretions from their roots deter below-ground nasties too. Sow lots more vibrant zinnias for long-lasting colour and cut-flowers; plenty of delicate looking cosmos including orange, yellow and red varieties; Mexican sunflowers (tithonia), marigolds, gerbera, balsam, coleus, amaranthus, gaillardia, rudbeckia, gompherena, matricaria and Burning bush (koochia) for a molten-lava display of autumnal colour. Also, with the summer monsoon planting season on its way, keep an eye on local nurseries to see if there are any interesting climbers and shrubs you may be able to find room for.
*Flower of the month: Hibiscus (Hibisceae). There are literally hundreds of different kinds of hibiscus in this huge genus. Some are annuals, others perennials. The most common ones here are Hibiscus syriacus and Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, both are perennial shrubs with their well-known gorgeous flowers being borne on and off throughout the year. The flowers of Hibiscus rosa-sinensis are much larger than those of Hibiscus syriacus and can reach the size of a dinner plate. Sun-lovers, but will tolerate light shade, they like humus-rich, well-drained soil conditions and intensely dislike to be over watered. Happy in suitably large clay pots/containers or directly in the ground, they reach a height of approximately one to three metres tall on average depending on exact species. Easily grown from seed, cuttings or layering, these showy shrubs are found in a huge array of colours and in both single and double form.
Vegetable: The hotter the weather the hotter the chillies, so don’t hold back in sowing lots of these essential culinary kicks and sow them, if possible, in lots of different sizes, shapes and colours to add interest to the garden — and patio pots — as a whole. Prettily coloured capsicums can still be sown as well, as can aubergines, cucumbers, okra, tomatoes in every available colour and size and row after crunchy row of lettuce in the shade. Fast-maturing summer/autumn cabbages and cauliflower, Swiss chard/leaf beet for using fresh or cooked, crisp radishes by the score and a weekly sowing of green onions to guarantee an endless supply of goodness are further options.
In the herb garden you can sow more coriander, basil, dill, borage, chives, garlic chives, lemon grass (or search out nursery grown plants), aniseed and patches/pots of cascading or climbing or bush nasturtiums interspersed with calendulas in all of their ‘smiley’ colour range.
The fruit factor: This month is the last call for sowing sweet melons and water melons and, as there is nothing quite so delicious as home-grown ones. Finding space for a plant or two is an absolute must.
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Published in Dawn, EOS, June 3rd, 2018