How did it get to be August already … the year is running away with me. So, the children have broken up from school, the weather is lovely (we hope, fingers crossed!), and the garden is beginning to bear all the fruits of our hard labour earlier in the year. There is nothing quite like the taste of a tomato plucked from your own greenhouse, and eaten warm from the vine (the way my daughter, Rachel, much prefers to eat them, and always did when she was little)! For myself, it was always the first runner beans, dripping with butter …
The weather this year has been extreme methinks! From the Beast from the East to one of the hottest summers on record … all of which has taken its toll on the garden. However, most plants will recover and even if your grass is looking pretty brown and dead, it will come back eventually. On the bright side, the grass hasn’t been growing so no mowing needed! What I want to know is, why when the garden plants are so dry and almost dead does the bindweed look so fresh and green? Grrrr …
August also brings Honiton Show on Thursday 2nd. This is always a really good day out for all the family, and if you would like to buy early bird tickets, then we have them in the shop for sale. Price is £14.50 (£17.00 on the day), and accompanied children under 16 go free. If you have not been before, then this is a real treat of an agricultural show.
And a small reminder; now that we have a garden waste collection, please remember not to add any grass clippings that have been treated with weedkiller or other chemicals, or plantage that has suffered from disease. This can get passed into the compost that is made and cause problems later down the line.
Grasses are extremely versatile in the garden, providing colour (yes, they do!), from grey to red, white and variegated! They look fabulous planted in drifts where they will reward you with a show for months on end. Leave the ‘dead’ stems over the winter as they look wonderful with the frost gleaming on them in the sun. Grow them among large stones and ‘mulch’ with gravel or slate for a continental look. They require very little looking after, just a trim up in the early spring before they start to shoot again (or you will chop the tops of the new growth off!). A really lovely variety is Pennisetum ‘Fireworks’ which has a cream coloured base and a bright red tip, or why not try Festuca ‘Intense Blue’ – a very grey type and a better form than the more usual glauca. Why not give them a go in your garden?
• Keep Camellias and Rhododendrons well watered at this time of year. This will ensure that next year’s buds develop well.
• Keep patio container plants well watered and feed with a liquid fertiliser every week.
• Dead-head bedding plants and perennial plants to stop them self-seeding and to encourage further flowering into the autumn.
• Trim your lavender plants after they’ve finished flowering to keep them compact. Dry the flowers by hanging in bunches in a dry place. They will scent a wardrobe or bathroom all winter! Traditionally used to make lavender bags (great Christmas present idea!!).
• As Penstemon flowers fade, cut them back to just above a leaf and you will get more flowers.
• Cut back herbs now to encourage a new flush of tasty leaves you can harvest before the frost.
• Prune Wisteria after flowering by removing all the whippy side-shoots from the main branch framework to about 20cm from their base (about five leaves from the main stem).
• Prune climbing roses and rambling roses once they’ve finished flowering (unless they are repeat-flowerers in which case leave them).
• Collect ripened seed and store for next year in paper envelopes. Leaving some seed heads in place can be attractive and allows the plant to self-seed in the surrounding soil as well as being a source of food for the birds.
• Take cuttings of favourite tender perennials such as pelargoniums and fuchsia to propagate them for next year.
• Finish dividing clumps of Bearded Iris now so they have time to form roots and flowers buds for next year before the cold weather arrives.
• Now is a good time to spray ground elder (and other perennial weeds) with a glyphosate-based weedkiller as the plant has lots of leaf surface area with which to absorb it.
• Look out for symptoms of Clematis Wilt such as wilting leaves and black discolouration on the leaves and stems of your Clematis. Cut out any infected plant material and dispose of it in your household waste.
• Water sweetcorn plants regularly now and feed with tomato food to get the best cobs. Sweetcorn is ready when you can pop a corn with your thumbnail and the juices are milky.
• Apply a high-potash fertiliser such as tomato food once fruits start to form on peppers, cucumber and aubergines.
• Continue to feed tomato plants with a tomato fertiliser and remove leaves lower down on the plant to help with air circulation and prevent disease.
• Pinch out the tips of your runner bean plants once they reach the top of their support. This encourages side-shooting and more beans at a manageable height for picking. Pick runner beans regularly to prevent them becoming stringy and to make room for developing pods. Leaving mature pods to set seed can prevent further flowers developing and reduce your crop.
• Limit the fruits on a squash plant to about three, but make sure these fruits are established before pinching out the surplus.
• Start harvesting your maincrop potatoes as the leaves yellow and die back. Try storing your potatoes in hessian sacks which exclude light but allow adequate ventilation.
• Lift and dry onions, shallots and garlic once the foliage has flopped over and yellowed. Store them in onion bags to prevent moulds developing.
• Keep harvesting courgettes before they turn into marrows! I have a really good recipe for Courgette Bread (actually a cake!!) which is really delicious, call in if you would like a copy!
• Take cuttings of herbs such as rosemary, sage or mint now to bulk up supplies. Put cuttings in moist, well-drained potting compost (one part grit to one part compost) and place in a cold frame.
• Established clumps of chives can be divided now.
• On a dry sunny day, collect seeds of herbs such as dill, fennel, caraway and chervil and dry in a warm spot out of direct sunlight. Chervil must be sown immediately.
• Keep an eye out for potato and tomato blight and remove and burn any affected plants immediately to prevent its spread.
• Check for cabbage white butterfly eggs under brassica leaves and squash any that you find. Alternatively use nematodes to kill the caterpillars or cover with Environmesh.
• Keep on top of weeds as they compete with your crops for nutrients and water.