Writing this piece on a dull and damp July morning it does make you wonder if we’re ever going to get some of the hot sunny summer days that we’ve had in the past. The one advantage of this damp weather of course is that it reduces the amount of hand watering needed in the garden, so every cloud has a silver lining!
The range of perennial plants available from garden centre’s for late summer/early autumn flowering is increasing year on year. Heuchera have lovely coloured foliage all year round from lime green, through copper and bronze and the lovely purple shades many with prominent leaf veins which make a lovely contrast. They’re easy to grow – ideal in sun or semi shade and are not damaged by slugs and snails. Another pretty late summer/early autumn flowering herbaceous are the Anemones – they have white or pink flowers with a pretty yellow centre and are ideal for the back of a border. If you dead headed delphiniums and lupins when they finished flowering earlier on you may get a second flush of flowers in September and October. Buying perennials from spring through to autumn will give colour for many months of the year.
In the veg patch, harvest onions and potatoes now – lift up onions and allow to dry out where they’ve been growing if the weather is fine, before storing. Potatoes should be stored in a cool but frost free environment. Hessian sacks that are available from garden centres are ideal for this purpose. Carrots and parsnips can be left in the ground until needed. Continue to pick runner beans and courgettes on a regular basis, so that they don’t become stringy and tough. Any green waste can be put onto the compost heap – use a compost activator, both Scotts and Vitax do these and it’ll speed up the composting process. It usually takes 12 months to rot down green waste into a usable compost. Never add grass mowings that have recently been treated with lawn weedkillers as this can cause problems in the future.
Summer baskets and tubs should still be in their prime through September and possibly into October if we don’t get any early frosts, but as the nights draw in and the weather gets cooler, they’ll begin to fade. Continue to dead head and feed regularly to encourage a late show of colour.
Once your baskets have been emptied why not re-plant for winter colour, there’s plenty to choose from – pansies, violas, polyanthus, heathers, ivies and don’t forget to add a few spring flowering bulbs for added colour. You can also add small shrubs for winter colour, these include gaultherias, leucothoe, skimmias and grasses.
Replant cleared borders with winter pansies, violas, sweet williams and wallflowers. Hopefully our own field grown wallflowers will be available from the end of September – they give excellent value for money- flowering in the spring with the bulbs. Spring flowering bulbs should be available over the August Bank Holiday, most bulbs can be planted as soon as you get them, but tulips can be planted later – through into November if the weather is mild. When planting in tubs put several layers on bulbs in first starting with daffodils then the smaller bulbs and finally plant pansies, violas or wallflowers last. You’ll get a longer flowering period in the spring and full pots.
Pick early apples and pears as they become ripe. Eat the earlier varieties straight away, storing later ripening ones for later use. Cover autumn fruiting raspberries against birds. The old fruiting canes can be pruned out during the winter months as the autumn varieties fruit on new season’s growth each year.
Dead head roses, trimming back any very long growths. Remove any foliage with rust or blackspot, making sure you dispose of it rather than putting on the compost heap. Remember to clean up any debris under rose bushes as blackspot will overwinter ready to re-infect bushes next year. Once all the foliage has dropped they can be sprayed with winter wash to clean up any lingering bugs or disease left on the plants.
Clean out greenhouses before putting in overwintering plants and insulate with bubble. Check over heaters ready for the first frosts. As you bring in plants to over winter watch out for vine weevil larvae, especially on fuchsias. If you do see signs of them, drench the compost with one of the chemicals available for their control. Once you’ve finished with the hosepipe in the autumn drain it down and store away for next year. Make sure you’ve got an insulated tap cover ready for outside taps once we start getting frosts.
Buy prepared hyacinth bulbs for Christmas flowering and plant them in bowls with Bulb Compost by mid-September. Bulb fibre contains charcoal which helps to keep the compost ‘sweet’ whilst the bulbs are in the dark. Give them a drink and put in a cool, dark place, bringing gradually into the light and warmth once the shoots are approx 3cm high.
Overwintering onions, shallots and broad beans will soon be in stock, plant them as soon as you can and you’ll get an early maturing crop next year.