Also pic of hanging basket attached for roundell

Trim box!

Many plants are now starting to put on a growth spurt as a result of the recent rains and increasing soil temperatures.

If you have low box hedges or topiary shapes these will also be making plenty of new growth and ideally should be trimmed around this time of the year to maintain their shape and keep them in trim. However, if the hedge or shrub is a reasonable size, double check before trimming that there are no birds nesting in it. Box or buxus to give it its proper name was traditionally trimmed on Derby day in the big houses, but any time during June is fine. When trimming box, I still prefer to trim by hand with a pair of shears as I think it makes a much neater job, but of course petrol or electric hedge trimmers can also be used.

Trimmed now, the plants will maintain their shape for several weeks until a new flush of growth is produced. How many times you trim really depends on the growing season, but usually the last trim of the season will be around September, after which little or no new growth will be made until the following year. Remember also that in order to keep box healthy and growing it does need feeding occasionally. For plants growing in the garden one feed per year using a general fertiliser is normally sufficient. For plants growing in containers, regular liquid feeding through the summer will keep the plants growing.

Readers’ Questions

Jo from Ripon has emailed me about strawberries. Last year much of her crop was ruined by the heavy rain and slugs and she wonders if laying a sheet of polythene over the plants will protect them.

Polythene simply laid over the plants will cause the plants to sweat and the fruits to rot due to lack of air circulation. Very often what happens in wet weather is the soil splashes onto the fruits, which can spoil the fruits. A cloche over the plants will certainly help, as long as the ends are open to allow air flow. The way commercial growers protect the fruit is to use straw between the plants. This should be laid during flowering or when the fruits are developing. The straw prevents soil splashing and it helps to keep the fruit clear of the ground. At the end of the summer, the straw is removed from between the rows and added to the compost heap. As for slugs, they love strawberries and in wet weather can cause a great deal of damage. There are various ways of controlling slugs such as slug pellets in various forms, nematodes, hand picking and beer traps. I tend to sprinkle just a few pellets on the ground before putting down the straw and this seems to work well. I keep the beer for myself!

Jobs for the week.

Plant bedding plants into the garden and make sure they are well watered in around their roots. If the soil is moist they will establish very quickly. Hanging baskets can also be hung in their permanent position.

Support tall herbaceous perennial before they grow too large with canes and string, twiggy branches or wire supports

While the soil is moist, keep drawing soil up along potato rows to encourage tuber growth.

If you have a gardening question for Martin Fish please email him at martin@flowershow.org.uk and we’ll print a selection of questions and answers for readers to share. Or, write to Ackrill Media Group, 1 Cardale Park, Harrogate and we’ll pass on your question