Gardening advice for the new (and not so new) gardener
Well, at the time of writing (mid July), the weather has been dreadful – so much for July being a hot and balmy month! My poor bedding plants looked fantastic until two consecutive days of rain flattened them. The vegetable garden is at least a month behind where it should be – with the runner beans only just coming into flower. Perhaps we’ll have great weather in August to help the veg catch up?!
Now you’ve worked hard for months, so the most important thing to do during August is to enjoy your garden; (weather permitting) heady scents, glorious colours, an abundance of fruits and vegetables and hopefully more sunshine to come. What could be more enjoyable and satisfying than surveying the results of your hard work throughout the year?
Right, enough sitting down and doing nothing, boring though it may seem, once you’ve had your 5 minutes of rest, enjoying your garden, it’s time to get the hoe out and give the weeds another trouncing! A little and often is far less work than leaving the weeds get a hold.
If you have plants that overhang your lawn such as lavender, they can easily get chewed up by your lawnmower as you cut the grass. To avoid this, use a combination of a bean pole and garden fork to lift the plant out of the way as you cut the grass – easy and effective. (see pic)
Remember to water and feed your plants regularly, especially those in hanging baskets, pots or containers as well as climbers and roses growing against a sunny wall. Many plants will not recover from a drought, so water regularly and do not resort to feast and famine.
Water hydrangeas with hydrangea colourant for true blue hydrangeas next year and don’t forget our feathered friends – ensure bird baths are kept full of fresh clean water.
If possible, set up an automatic watering system for your vegetable plot, borders and even containers. They are worth their weight in gold and can work on a sensor system that detects how dry the soil is. Once you have one you will won-der why you did not install it years ago. Going on holiday will no longer involve wondering if your precious plants will survive a dry spell or paying someone else to hold a hose!
If it stays warm and dry, water saving strategies include using bathwater and washing up water, provided they are neither too dirty nor oily. Keep your pond topped up, free of pond weed and clean – green algae can be toxic to pets.
Towards the end of August sow hardy annuals directly into borders. They will overwinter and flower next summer. Cutting back the foliage and stems of herbaceous plants that have already died back (e.g. Dicentra) is starting to be a priority.
Don’t neglect hanging baskets – deadheading, watering and feeding will help them last through until autumn.
Deadhead plants such as Dahlia, roses and Penstemon and bedding to prolong the display colour well into early autumn.
Don’t cut off the flower heads of ornamental grasses. These will provide winter interest.
Hardy geraniums can be cut back a little to remove tired leaves and encourage a new flush of growth.
Prune climbing and rambling roses that do not repeat flower or produce attractive hips, once the flowers have finished.
JOBS TO DO IN THE GARDEN FOR THE MONTH OF AUGUST
Cabbages and cauliflowers
Most vegetables should be coming on stream, so you could be enjoying:-
Many fruits are ready to harvest or swelling. Swelling fruit requires a lot of water so en-sure they have enough.
Watch out for over-laden plums and damsons. If needed you can support branches by inserting a length of 2×1 timber, notched at the top (like an old fashioned line prop) to support the branch or tie to the stem with robust twine.
Protect autumn raspberries by covering with netting before the fruits arrive or the birds will eat the lot.
Don’t delay summer pruning of restricted fruit trees
Deadhead flowering plants regularly
Watering! Particularly containers, and new plants – preferably with grey recycled water or stored rainwater
Collect seed from favourite plants
Harvest sweetcorn and other vegetables as they become ready
Continue cutting out old fruited canes on raspberries
Lift and pot up rooted strawberry runners
Keep ponds and water features topped up
Feed the soil with green manures
When hanging onions to store, it’s time consuming to plait the stem, so bind them with garden wire – it’s far quicker and they’re less likely to fall apart.
If you grow tomatoes, you know how easy it is to end up with a glut. So here’s a recipe for oven dried tomatoes – great as an antipasto or chopped and sprinkled in salads. You’ll need ripe tomatoes, finely chopped fresh herbs (thyme or marjoram or rosemary) sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and olive oil. Cut the tomatoes lengthways and place on a baking tray. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with herbs and drizzle with olive oil. Cook on a low heat 90 to 100 ⁰C (Gas mark 1 to 2) for 4 to 5 hours. They’ll keep in an airtight container in the fridge for a couple of days. Or place in a jar with more olive oil, where they’ll keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.