Outdoor cucumbers and greenhouse crops can be started now for summer cropping. Unusual mints are inexpensive, easy to grow and surprising. Eucomis are another plant with character adding late summer drama. Some weeding concludes the busy spring lawn care regime.
Young leaves of basil mint fill in for pepperminty basil, until summer. For further remarkable scents, try banana mint and Eau de Cologne mint. Buddleia mint carries long mauve edible flower spikes, which are relished, like all mint flowers, by insects. The grey-green leaves are valuable for flower arranging, too. Mints grow well in any garden soil but ideally in full sun. If planted in bare soil, regular hoeing can curb unwanted expansion. If pot-raised, repot and divide each spring.
Hardy cucumbers, including gherkins, thrive outdoors in the south, although a cloche or similar covering is advisable in the north. Sow three seeds per pot indoors now, thin to one and plant out in early summer into any fertile soil in full sun. Whether they ramble or are trained up supports, heavy crops of smallish, thick-skinned, well-flavoured cucumbers can continue until early autumn. Pick thoroughly, as over-ripe ones suppress further cropping. Surplus fruits make excellent pickles.
Eucomis is a dramatic summer bulb that can be planted now in well-drained, warm sunny places. It flowers in late summer with a pineapple-like column of small, starry flowers topped with a leafy top-knot, on a base of leathery strap-like leaves. Eucomis autumnalis has greeny white flowers, while Eucomis bicolor has lilac in its green-white flowers. Both grow to 30cm. With lilac flowers and very dark green leaves, “Sparkling Burgundy”, at 50cm, is particularly lovely. Protect with a coarse winter mulch.
Even unheated greenhouses will usually exclude frosts after mid-spring, so planting tender crops can go ahead. Aubergines, chillies, cucumbers, melons, peppers and tomatoes are available as plants, with a good range being offered, if homegrown seedlings have not been raised. There is still time to sow melons and cucumbers. Growbags are convenient, but need frequent watering, so large pots are often easier to manage. Border soil is easiest, but becomes “tomato-sick” if cropped too often with tomatoes.
Lawn weeds can survive regular mowing and spread by creeping or by seed. The thicker the grass, the fewer the weeds, so lawn fertiliser will help exclude new ones. Very close mowing can make space for weeds, so avoid “scalping” turf. Weed control can be achieved by digging weeds out with a narrow trowel, but widespread weeds where fine turf is desired might need lawn weedkiller treatment. Fast-growing spring lawn weeds are especially vulnerable to weedkiller.
Guy Barter is chief horticultural adviser for the Royal Horticultural Society (@GuyBarter).
The Royal Horticultural Society is a charity working to share the best in gardening and make the UK a greener place. Find out more at rhs.org.uk.