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Blog posts tagged with 'summer'

Mid-Summer

Seeing as we are now, annually speaking, over the hill - having witnessed last week the `Mid-Summer` solstice- I am sure you are wondering what is left to do in the garden whilst we await patiently for the first signs of Autumn and the inevitable Christmas adverts on TV?

Well, there is a lot.

Despite the fact that somewhere our societal calendar has stepped away from tradition and now follows the schools, the garden believe it or not has much to offer.

Your lawns, I am sure could do with a good feed, but instead of running out to the shops and buying some ecologically damaging chemical or other, try a light dressing of something called 7X. If you are not sure what I am talking about, it is a bag of well rotted manure-cum-compost (not an Australian beer), available at the garden centre, high in the vital nutrient nitrogen and perfect for summer feed. It doesn`t smell either and can be walked on immediately unlike the chemicals.

Also, as I am sure the lawn has already seen a fair amount of use, despite the mixed weather, it may be an idea to spike your lawn, offering the roots some air and reducing compaction damage. This can be done with a fork.

Another job for the diligent is the dead-heading of flowering shrubs and roses. Whilst you may extend the flowering season, you are also helping the plant divert its resources from producing off-spring to the vital role of keeping itself healthy.

Indeed, as shrubs finish flowering, it is a good idea to prune them to shape, or perhaps a little harder in order that they still have a chance to grow back into shape and to grow the buds for next year’s flower. Plants like Kolkwitzia, Philadelphus and Deutzia appreciate this treatment more than a general tidy at the end of this year’s play. In fact, it is directly after flowering that these shrubs do well to have the old wood cut out entirely - letting in more air and light and ultimately producing a better plant.

Another great job for the meticulous is weeding. Many see the task as a frustrating chore, to be bemoaned and avoided, but I myself find the exercise very Zen if that is possible for Englishman. I can let my thoughts wander to ideas of what it is to be a seedling or perhaps an ant, whilst the majority of my frontal lobe is in a well-trained auto-pilot discerning unintentional from the intentional. If during this experience, my mind goes blank, even momentarily, I have become one with the garden and Nirvana reached.

Or that`s what I`m told.

Time for a cuppa I think.

 

July Jobs
The traditional time to cut evergreen hedges is after the Epsom Derby, so all your beautiful box hedging, parterres and topiary should now be well on the way to being reshaped.
 
You still just have a window to sow mange tout peas for an autumn crop of  and successional sowings of salads.
 
July is a traditional month of change, the last chance to cut the hay if it stays dry enough - in some counties it is the last month of summer before the beginning of the harvests in August. However, continue to water your plants as the rain may not be as substantial as you at first expect. Unless the rain is heavy and sustained, in this warmth, much will be evaporated before it reaches the deeper roots. Thus the best thing you can do for your precious plants is to water heavily in the evening twice a week. Remember, there is really no use watering a little amount as much will evaporate, so water well.
 
Whilst talking of watering, please remember visitors to your garden may need a thirst quenching drink. A water bowl will offer hedgehogs welcome respite, so too a bowl placed higher - out of reach of cats - may provide our avian friends with much needed liquid. Whilst you may curse the pigeons for stripping the cabbages, song thrushes are great at ridding the garden of snails and slugs.
 

 

Notwithstanding, I must admit here, I am no fan of the lawn sprinkler. We may live in a country that has rain as a `normal` weather occurrence, but the way we collect it for our use is pretty poor. Thus we should not look upon using such a vital resource as a throw away substance, indeed as utilities push their prices up, watering the lawn will be impractical and expensive in the near future. Only 0.02% of all water on the planet is available to drink so think on. Instead, try to save your grey water. Set up water buts next to your bath or shower down pipe. Buy a water butt or two for the drain pipes and if you are really savvy, install a soak away that feeds into an underground storage area or bog garden. (You may even get a reduction in your water bill as believe it or not, you are paying for waste water to be transported away from your house.) If you are still worrying about the lawn, don`t worry, it can happily go dormant for a number of months without a problem. Yellow isn’t that bad when it saves you money.     
Holiday Gardening
Can you tell I’ve been on holiday?
 
 

 

 
It is often with a sense of wonder that seaside gardens are generally overlooked as places of beauty, I suppose because we are so intent on enjoying a thin strip of sand or pebble as if it were the pinnacle of our holiday experience. Don’t get me wrong, I love the beach and love swimming in the great body of water that connects humanity.  But, one cannot have ice-cream every day.
 
Personally, I love what the resolute and the inventive create, growing plants in what is one of the harshest environments we can attempt to grow anything in. There are the success stories, such as Derek Jarman’s garden at Dungeness or the majesty of the Rock Gardens at Southsea, in Portsmouth to name but two and well worth a visit. Then there are the small victories that go unnoticed, yet achieve something of the sublime and in their own way make all efforts worth a million days further inland. Of course one cannot grow acid loving plants in a place where alkaline salt rules the day, but do we need Camellias and Azaleas everywhere?
 
Whenever, I venture to the seaside, I always make it a rule to pay attention to the planting. Be it the habitual and architectural such as the Scots Pine and Holm Oak, to the fine feathery beauty of the Tamarisk, not forgetting the heat and colour of the Kniphofia  and Rudbeckia – both favourites of the seaside. Or perhaps the delicate carpets of Sea Thrift or Osteospermum catch your eye. But we in the UK have such varying micro-climates, we are lucky to explore many different styles, from the sub-tropical Scilly Isles and Scottish west coast, to the semi-arid Suffolkcoast and the wind blasted North East.
 
Basically, rather than me giving you a lecture on how to create your very own seaside garden in the hills of Derbyshire, I ask of you one thing. Keep your eyes peeled. You may find a gem of undeniable beauty hidden away behind an Escallonia hedge.
 
 

 

 
Mid-Summer Roses

So, we have reached Mid-Summer, which in gardening terms is a great marker point.
The beds should be full of glorious colour and if you are wise, scent too.
One of my favourite plants for scent is of course the rose, which despite being just an ugly stick for 5 months of the year - as described by the previous head of the RHS - has the remarkable reputation of being one of Britain`s favourite plants.


It is not without reason that roses have such a special place in our hearts.
They have been in cultivation for thousands of years; indeed the Babylonians and Egyptians had them and they are mentioned in the Bible, Tora and Quoran as well as Shakespeare and other literature. The English crown of course has a white and red rose as it`s symbol of unity and the Empress Josephine had one of the greatest rose gardens in history - which was sadly destroyed during the Franco-Prussian War. If you like roses and want to plant them in your garden, look at the David Austin or Peter Beales catalogues for ideas - there are others, but these are the best.
Read carefully, deciding on flowering time, scent, colour or height.
Personally I love sticking my nose in a rose and smelling that particular fruit scent you get with some of the dark reds like ‘Ena Harkness’ or ‘Crimson Glory’. “In general, roses with the best scents are darker colors, have more petals, and have thick or velvety petals” – to quote Dr.
Leonard Perry of Vermont University.
But there are down-sides. Thanks to the introduction of the `Persian Yellow` variety, we now have many plants that are susceptible to fungus such as black spot. Which means if we want perfect rose leaves, we have to spray with toxic fungicides. There is also the problem of leaf pests such as the Rose Leaf-Rolling Sawfly, which has usually done it`s damage by mid-July and is very difficult to eradicate.
The aphid is also a major problem from March onwards, effecting not only the leaf, but also the flower buds and the residue proves a great host for yet more fungus. These can be sprayed against with a systemic insecticide, but given we are talking about a plant that attracts bees, I suggest you try not to.
There are some methods which supposedly put pests off. The planting of parsley, calendula and alliums all aid the gardener in his or her attempts to ward off pests. I am also told a garlic spray mixed with crushed and boiled horse-tail acts as a good insecticide and fungicide.
But to be honest the best thing one can do with your roses is enjoy them for what they are. Appreciate the variety of flora and fauna that the rose attracts. We look at an oak and understand it provides a home for thousands of animals, fungi and mosses, so why look at a rose any differently?
As long as it is fed well and pruned at the correct time, it will go on giving the pleasure of flowers and structure to even the smallest of gardens.

 
Top 20 Tasks for August in the garden

 


1. Weed strawberry beds and cut off old leaves from your strawberry plants to keep plants healthy. You need to replace your strawberry plants every year, so plant out pot grown rooted runners in a new bed next month.

2. The end of August is the ideal time to sow grass seed and repair any bare patches

3. This month, store all apples, pears and plums

4. August is a good time to get ahead by planting hardy annuals instead of waiting for the spring. They can easily be transplanted in the spring. You may lose a few during the winter, but those that do survive will be stronger than those sown in spring. Choose cornflowers, Nigella, larkspur, scabious, eschscholtzia and Shirley poppies.

5. Prune rambler roses shortly after the blooms have faded. Detach shoots from their supports. You can use these as cuttings to form roots in jars of water.

6. Clip hedges

7. Plant early flowering bulbs – crocus, squill, winter aconite, chionodoxa and snowdrops.

8. After the last crop of broad beans, cut down the stems to a few inches of the ground, fork the surface around them and water thoroughly. A fresh crop of new shoots will shortly appear producing a second crop of small beans which should be harvested regularly.

9. Boil rhubarb leaves. Use the water as a spray against aphids.

10. Bend onion leaves over at the neck to check further growth and encourage ripening.

11. Harvest spring onions and sow onions for next year’s crop.

12. Sow winter spinach.

13. Pot bulbs of hyacinth, narcissus and early daffodils.

14. Take cuttings of lavender, berberis, aucubas and ceanothus and keep in a cold frame where they will soon root.

15. Clean and paint your greenhouse.

16. Deadhead regularly to encourage flowering to go on longer.

17. Continue hoeing to keep the weeds down.

18. Check fencing and trellis are secure for the winter months.

19. Keep alpine plants tidy by cutting back the stems.

20. Give scruffy bedding plants, such as nemesia and lobelia a trim to keep them producing more flowers by cutting back the plants with secateurs to about half their height.

-- Rob Amey

Coping with a wet summer

Geranium spp.

  So, the English summer has sprung upon us like a damp octopus. Slimy, vaguely warm, uncomfortable and perhaps slightly menacing. If your garden is not now the village pond, then you are lucky indeed. I bet you're glad you bought those lovely T&C wellies now eh? Notwithstanding, I search for the positives – everywhere you must admit is beautifully verdant.

Astrantia spp.
 

 

Buddleja davidii.


The plants and trees- the very soul of our gardens- are undeniably happy, displaying their colours with gusto. And yet we cannot seem to ignore the problems. The slugs and snails have run amok, destroying vast swathes of my veg patch in their merciless quest for sustenance - slug pellets or beer traps being rapidly diminished by the sheer weight of water. As for the weeds, oh the weeds, even the panel of the illustrious BBC Gardeners Question Time have raised their hands to heaven. “You can't spray, you can't hoe, so what can you do?” As Adam Ant possibly sang all those years ago.

But there is hope yet for us hardy garden folk. If you have a lawn and are fearful of cutting it, as those books advise against; well, fear not, for as Vita Sackville-West was so fond of saying: Rebel!

Set your mower on the highest cut and cut away. If you have a hover mower this is a bit more complicated but not impossible. If the lawn is impossibly long. Strim it first. Remember electrics and water don't mix so try for a dry spell. After you have cut, spike the lawn, using a sharp border fork, sprinkling compost as you do. Not only will the lawn remain healthy, but you are adding to the nutrients and drainage potential! In the borders, add a good mulch of mushroom compost or if you have Azaleas and their ilk, try ericaceous compost and seaweed. With all the activity of the worms and the constant rain, leaching of nutrients has undoubtedly occurred, so mulch away! If all else fails just sit by the window and watch the swallows and martins scoot impossibly close to the ground in search of their supper. Wonderful. There, feel better? Now, where's that recipe for pan-fried octopus with chilli, coriander and garlic...
 
-- Guy Deakins
Jobs to do in August...

 

Agapanthus africanus,Tanacetum parthenium, Lichnis cornaria, Oenothera
 
 

Well, the summer is coming to an end in the UK. Overall, the first half of the year many of you will agree, has been odd. It has certainly been interesting; as some have put it, we had May, June and July in one month, the rest of the summer has been…let’s not be too negative. I love the month of August. The garden is just beyond its peak of flowering, but seeds are to be collected, fruit harvested, the ground prepared for the autumn sowings and planting of annuals and winter hardy veg. All in the gloriously warm (if perhaps wet) weather we still have.

At present, as well as continuing the ceaseless weeding, grass cutting and disease control, I am mulching borders with rotted leaf mould, a vitally important job to do between now and the first frosts, which given the years odd weather may well come as early as September (where have the Swallows gone?). I am also sowing winter vegetable seed, ready for planting out in September/October - remembering Brussels Sprouts can be ready for Christmas and need deep soil. Italian or Black Kale, Winter Cabbages and Purslane will sit happily over winter, ready to fill the hungry gap in early spring. It may also be worth looking now at some of the Japanese varieties of Onion if you are so inclined. Not forgetting if you have a greenhouse, new potatoes if kept frost free will be fit for the table on Dec 25th . Lastly, sweet peas need to be researched and ordered if you want to get an early sowing under glass. Lots to do, lots more to enjoy.

-- Guy Deakins