David Bingley of Abingdon Horticultural Society on a summer of surprises for south Oxfordshire gardeners

The growing season has reached a peak, or should have done. However, this year continues to throw up surprises and many of our garden plants have not yet achieved their summer potential.

The allotment is being productive and the photograph shows last week's varied harvest of broad beans (green long pod), summer raspberries, second early potatoes, rhubarb and sweet peas.

The recent hot weather has meant that the sweet peas, although highly scented, are not lasting long in a vase.

However, it is important to keep picking them as they soon stop flowering if they are allowed to start producing seeds. The potatoes have a superb flavour and smooth texture and I have convinced myself that planting the tubers with a little soot around them has kept most of the slugs away – in a year when many other plants have been hammered by slugs great and small. The autumn planted onions have a very sweet taste and are good for cooking as well as salads. We normally plant our winter onion sets in October but it was late in November in 2015. This caused some to bolt and produce thick necks and smaller bulbs, but they are still fine to use.

An interesting observation this year has been that the rhubarb plants have not produced flowering spikes and it is still growing new and tender stems, enabling some to be cooked and frozen for winter crumbles.

The flying ants were very noticeable and even news worthy. I noticed the gulls feeding on them high up in an early afternoon. This year appears to have been a good year for ants and you may be able to see the effects in your lawn. My guess is that a mild winter and damp spring enabled more nests to survive and the ants have made the most of this opportunity to construct quite large underground nests. Industrially the workers move quite large amounts of soil and the domes produced get scalped by the mower – leaving unsightly brown patches.

Now is the time to repair the patch and often the best way is to lightly fork the area and remove any excess soil, at this time you may well expose worker ants and eggs.

If you break for a drink the local robin, blackbird or even green woodpecker may turn up for a snack and help reduce the underlying problem! The area can then be seeded and will quickly green over. Seed is readily available, loose or prepacked, from hardware stores, garden centers and even the pound shop. Watering in a dry spell of weather will help the seed to establish quickly.

The wallflower seeds sown last week germinated very quickly as the soil is warm and I have watered the seed bed every third day. They will need transplanting into a nursery bed when large enough to handle. I will buy some spring cabbage seed this week and sow in the next week or two, and, planted out in a sheltered and protected area of the allotment they will be ready for harvest next May – with luck.

We are still being vigilant around the lily pots looking for the bright red beetles, we did find two and then about 50eggs on the underside of good leaves this week.

I am keeping the hoe working to stop the weeds getting established in the vegetable plot but some of the areas, for instance around the runner beans, have had to be hand weeded. I have also continued to foliar feed the beans and keep their roots moist. We have just started to harvest the first beans.

Our June visit to the NGS Open Gardens in Oxford was very enjoyable, giving an insight into fellow gardeners' ideas and planting schemes. One very well presented garden had a pergola corner supporting a climbing rose, wisteria and clematis, below which a paved area made a superb spot for a picnic table and a view of the garden from a different perspective.

The patio pots and hanging baskets need extra water in hot spells and in breezy weather, often twice daily. They are also being fed once a week. It is also important to keep up with the 'dead heading' - the removal of the dead flowers encourages more flowers and keeps the tubs and pots looking at their best for longer.

Remember it is important to find the time to sit and relax to view the results of your hard work. Enjoy the summer.

A few words for the paper. The owner of the garden where I took p216 gave permission and is pleased to have the picture included.

I will send the photos. Photo 238 A variety of allotment vegetables

225 A lily pot where the lily beetles and eggs were found

216 A corner pergola