Dazzle with colour! 15 easy June gardening tasks to kickstart the summer | Gardening advice

Now is the moment to fill every spare container and bare patch of earth with summer bedding. If you’re bored with petunias, lobelias and the usual “pub hanging basket” favourites, there are lots of more exotic options: I’ve listed five of my favourites below. If you’re panicking that you haven’t got started with any gardening yet, don’t worry, there’s plenty you can get on with now to kickstart the growing year.

A Spanish flag (Ipomoea lobata) in bloom. Photograph: Tim Gainey/Alamy

Five things you should plant

  • If you’re looking for some garden drama, choose cannas. These are statement plants for a large pot or border, growing as tall as you, with lush leaves topped with flowers in tropical shades of pink, orange, red and yellow. Tropicanna Black has dark purple leaves and red flowers, while Phasion has leaves striped in orange, pink and green, and orange flowers.

  • Spanish flag (Ipomoea lobata) is an annual climber that looks fantastic romping up a sunny trellis or over a pergola, its red and yellow flowers rising like flames from the lobed leaves.

  • If you’re all about the foliage, begonia Gryphon is perfect for pots on the patio, as its large, maple-like silver-splashed leaves with red backs make a fast-growing mound. Like all summer bedding, it won’t last through a British winter, but you can take cuttings or bring a whole plant in for winter if you want to keep the display going into the following year.

  • There’s a dizzying array of coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides) cultivars; some are so bright and busy that they are just as colourful as flowers, such as red and yellow Walter Turner. But if you want to go dark, there are cultivars with almost black leaves, such as Palisandra. They do well out of direct sun and, like the begonia above, can be moved indoors in autumn.

  • If you want every inch of your garden to be productive, herbs and salads can make just as pretty a display as ornamental bedding. Choose small pots of variegated sage (Salvia officinalis Tricolor), red basil, Vietnamese coriander, and any other herbs that catch your eye, along with plugs of colourful lettuces, rainbow chard and kale, and play around with different planting arrangements in pots, raised beds and borders.

Check and remove any damaged fruit then target heavily laden branches on apple and other fruit trees.
Check and remove any damaged fruit then target heavily laden branches on apple and other fruit trees. Photograph: Philly Flower/Alamy

Five garden maintenance tasks to complete

  • Fruit trees should start fattening up their crop now, but it’s worth checking how prolific a harvest you could have. On apples, plums, and pears, remove any fruit that are looking damaged and diseased first, then target heavily laden branches, removing enough fruit to allow a few centimetres of breathing room between the remainder. It may seem harsh, but will result in a better crop.

  • If you’ve only got a few tomato plants and fancy propagating some more, there’s a simple way to do it. The usual growing advice is to remove the side shoots on tomatoes. These grow out of the point where the leaf meets the stem, but if you let them grow to around 10cm long, then snip them off at the base, they can make new plants. Stick the cuttings in a glass of water until the roots are around 5cm long then pot them up individually.

  • Knowing when to prune which shrub can feel confusing, but the basic rule is, wait until it’s finished flowering. That makes June a great month to cut back spring flowering plants such as mock orange (philadelphus), forsythia and winter flowering honeysuckle (Lonicera x purpusii). Rather than giving the shrub a “bowl cut” by trimming all the stems, cut some back to ground level to encourage new growth, once you’ve removed anything that’s dead or damaged.

  • If your first lot of courgettes or squash failed, it’s not too late to try again. Sow a couple of seeds directly where you want plants to grow, protecting with a cloche: a plastic bottle cut in half is perfect.

  • If you use netting to protect crops such as soft fruit and brassicas, make sure it doesn’t turn into a hazard for wildlife: it’s easy for birds and hedgehogs to become entangled. Check netting daily and make sure it is securely pegged to the ground, and pack away any netting you’ve used for garden sports once you’ve finished with it.

With warmer weather finally here, it’s time to fill every square inch of the garden with bedding plants, climbers, rainbow chard …
With warmer weather finally here, it’s time to fill every square inch of the garden with bedding plants, climbers, rainbow chard … Photograph: imageBROKER/Alamy

Five other ways to enjoy your garden

  • If your lilies end up looking like grimy doilies by the end of summer, the scarlet lily beetle is probably to blame. The adult beetle, beautiful though it is, lays eggs on the leaves of plants in the lily family, and the subsequent larvae munch away at them, hiding in their own excrement. Squish the adults and wipe away the larvae, or use Grazers G4 deterrent spray (which is wildlife-friendly) if that sounds too alarming.

  • Compost heaps really start to heat up at this time of year: adding a good mix of carbon-rich and nitrogen-rich materials will help to speed the process. If you’re adding lots of nitrogen-heavy greens, such as grass cuttings, balance that with torn-up corrugated cardboard, toilet roll middles and used kitchen roll. Add a moth-eaten old woollen blanket or jumper as a compost topper to keep in the moisture and you’ll be the envy of the allotments.

  • Not all compost companies like to shout about the peat content in their products, so make it your mission to read the small print when you’re buying compost. Even the stuff marked “organic” can still be loaded with peat, which is a non-renewable resource and contributes to climate change when dug out of the ground. The government has decided to phase out sales of peat to gardeners by 2024, but act now by choosing 100% peat-free compost this year. Sacks should indicate – and you will have to search for it – the percentage of peat they contain.

  • Permanently planted containers will benefit from some TLC: remove any weeds, and if the contents are too big to repot completely, scrape away the top few centimetres of compost and replace with fresh, taking care not to disturb the roots. Cover the surface with a mulch of bark or pebbles to reduce evaporation and slow weed growth.

  • If you’re growing strawberries, put some straw around the bases of the plants to protect the fruit from damage as they develop. If you haven’t got any on the go, it’s not too late to get some pot-grown plants in the ground or in pots.