What an interesting summer of gardening it’s been! I feel the effect of this year’s strange weather – one of the hottest on record – might be seen for several years to come on insect and bird populations as well as our garden-plants. Round here, the August rain has gone a long way to making the bog plants feel more comfortable again when all the heat-loving things have rushed to set seed. There are still plenty of things to be getting on with, and here are a few:
HARDY ANNUALS FULL OF HOPE
Early September is a very good moment to sow some of your favourite Hardy Annuals for a rainbow of colour next year. The soil is still warm and moist and they will germinate well. These are flowers like Eschscholtzia (Californian Poppies), Godetia, Calendula (Marigolds) and Nigella (Love-in-a-Mist). Clear the soil where you want them to flower, and rake it to the consistency of fine breadcrumbs. Water the soil then sow your seeds thinly on the surface. Sprinkle enough soil over the top just to cover them, and leave them to germinate and become strong little plants before winter hits in earnest.
Moles may have a cuddly image but they are a menace in our neck of the woods! We have been told a depressing statistic which states that if you manage to catch a mole, it’s almost guaranteed that another one will move into its tunnels within 24 hours! Nevertheless, we shall keep working on it! Unless we remove the soil of a molehill right away, we are left with unsightly bare patches where the grass has died. If you have these bare spots too (pet urine? A well-worn path? The footie goal-mouth?), September is a good time to make repairs. Rake the patches, scratching up the soil, sprinkle over some grass-seed (mixed with a little fertilizer if you have it) and sprinkle more soil ove the top to protect the seed from pesky birds. It’s important the seed is in close contact with the soil, so I like to tamp it down with a boot or a kneeler, before watering it well using a rose in the can.
If flopped-over plants have ruined the lawn-edge, cut out a square of lawn that includes the bare patch and turn it round, so that the good side is now at the edge. Build up the worn bit with topsoil, and then sow grass-seed over it as before. Lovely job!
Climbing roses generally flower twice, once on wood made last year, and again on the current season’s wood. If your climbing roses have finished flowering, it’s a handy period to sort them out to maximise next year’s flowers. Take 1 in 3 of the old stems right out to encourage new shoots from the base. Tie in the rest of the stems and try to ensure that you train some of them horizontally which encourages more laterals and thus flowers. Then cut back the lateral shoots on the main stems to about 3 leaves/buds.
* Pot up herbs to give yourself some pickings in the autumn and winter – Basil, Marjoram, Mint, Oregano and Parsley can all sit in pots on a kitchen window-sill quite happily with a drop of water and care.
* Start cutting-back and tidying your summer-flowering shrubs, taking off the long flowered shoots, any dead and crossing wood, and generally shaping them up again. You may even be rewarded with a few more flowers from lower down on the plant!
* The bulb catalogues have started thudding through the letterbox – time to sit back with a cup of tea, and start planning what bulbs you are going to brighten your pots and borders with, in 2019. You’ll get the best choice if you do it early in autumn. Happy browsing!