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  • Chair & Louise

Savour the Summer!

After a very wet July, we are gradually edging towards the end of summer so remember to take the time to enjoy your garden throughout the month. Whilst we remain surrounded by an abundance of flowers, fruits and foliage, plant growth really starts to slow down from the end of August so now is the time to savour it!

Perennials, Shrubs and Trees

● Continue cutting back herbaceous perennials as they fade or collapse. They can also be trimmed back to prevent them from growing over smaller plants or the lawn.

● Continue to deadhead roses. By removing the faded flowers, we redirect the plant’s energy from producing seeds to producing more flowers. With the milder autumns of recent years, it is not uncommon for roses to continue flowering until November.

● Lightly trim lavender. Remove the old flower spikes and take about 2.5cm off the tips of the leafy growth using hand shears. This will encourage the growth of side shoots and helps to keep the plant more bushy and compact.

● Take pelargonium cuttings now. They are growing their best now and your cuttings should root quickly.

● Take cuttings from more tender perennials such as verbenas, plectranthus, arctotis, etc. to ensure a good supply for next year’s borders and containers.

● Continue to take semi-ripe cuttings from shrubs. Cuttings should be taken from this year’s growth once the stems have started to become woody at the base. It’s best to take cuttings in the morning or evening when temperatures are cooler.

● Most hedges can be given their final trim towards the end of this month. Trim the sides first, working from the bottom up, and remember to keep the hedge wider at the base and narrow at the top; it will withstand weather better and light will reach all parts of the plant.

● Now is also a good time to prune box and yew balls and hedges. For box you want to choose an overcast, cooler day to prune. Be careful to check your box for signs of blight and caterpillars when clipping. You can give your box a good feed now as well as a final treatment for box caterpillars. I tend to use TopBuxus and Xentari, respectively. Also you may wish to avoid tightly pruning your Box to increase circulation and minimise stress to the plant.

● Prune rambling roses after they have flowered. All side shoots that have flowered can be pruned back to one or two buds from the main stem and strong, new growth can be tied in to replace older shoots which can be pruned out.

● Complete summer pruning of wisteria, cutting back all whippy side shoots to 5 or 6 buds from the main stems. This will encourage the plant to produce buds for next year’s flowers.

● Make sure your perennials such as asters, echinaceas, rudbeckias, heleniums, dahlias, etc. are well supported with stakes, metal supports or flower rings to ensure they don’t collapse with the weight of their blooms particularly during periods of strong winds and rain.

Kitchen Garden

● Keep picking cut flowers such as sweet peas, dahlias and zinnias to encourage more blooms and a longer flowering season.

● This is the last opportunity to sow salad crops including lettuce, radish, salad onions, rocket and spinach as well as herbs such as parsley and chervil. Not all plants will mature, but you should get some young salad material for the autumn.

● Sow green manure crops on vacant grounds. Rape and mustard are fast-growing and can be dug in during the autumn before they flower. Other green manures can then be sown to overwinter. This will also limit the need for weeding.

● Harvest onions when the foliage collapses. In dry weather, they can be left on the surface of the soil to dry. It’s important that they are properly dried if they are going to keep well in storage.

● Keep harvesting courgettes while they are young; the texture and flavour will be better and it will encourage the plants to produce more flowers and fruits into the autumn.

● Harvest beans and freeze them. This is one way to get around the problem of having a glut of vegetables in one go. French beans, runner beans and podded broad beans can all be frozen to avoid wastage.

● Continue to earth up celery. Draw earth up around the side of the stems until only the foliage is showing. Blanching makes tough stems more palatable and easier to cook.

● Prune summer-fruiting raspberries. Tie in strong, new canes that have grown this year and cut back any weak or old canes to the base.

● Summer prune trained fruit trees, including cordon and espalier forms. More information about pruning restricted forms can be found here

● Rooted strawberry runners can now be cut from the parent plant and planted out into their own location. They can also be planted into 18cm pots and left outside for the rest of summer. In autumn, be sure to move them where they will be protected from the winter wet.

● Support plum trees particularly the heavy-cropping varieties as the weight of the fruit might well snap branches.

● Towards the end of the month, nights can become cooler. It may be worth closing doors and vents on greenhouses overnight to maintain a little warmth. As the days start getting shorter, you may also consider removing greenhouse shading to give plants access to more light.

Other Jobs

● Keep on top of all the routine jobs, such as deadheading and weeding. Weeds not only compete for space in beds and borders but they will also compete for moisture and nutrients.

● Feed your containers to help keep your flowering display going into Autumn. And don’t forget to keep watering your containers during periods of hot, dry weather.

● Now is a great time to start saving seeds (or removing seedheads that you don’t want to self-seed). Keep an eye out for seed heads as they ripen on a variety of plants in your garden. They are usually ripe when they begin to turn brown so, on a dry day, cut them off and drop them into paper bags to be sorted, dried and stored later on. Make sure you label them as you go!

● Anytime from August onwards is a good time to mow wild flower meadows. It is always best to cut and drop the grass, leaving it to dry and drop seed before raking and removing it.

● Continue to mow the lawn regularly and consider leaving grass clippings on the lawn in dry weather; they act as a mulch for the grass, helping to retain moisture and return organic matter. If your lawn is new, continue to water it regularly in dry spells.

● Order spring-flowering bulbs. Lots of suppliers have good offers on collections of narcissi, alliums, tulips, etc. Think about what did well this past Spring and look to fill any noticeable gaps in your borders.

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