The summer rolls on, and what a scorcher we’ve had so far! Water-preservation has been the order of the day round here and the drought-tolerant plants have had a field day while much else has struggled. To take your mind off miserable mimulus and such like, here are a few tasks to be getting on with:
HELPING THE HERBS
I wonder if your herb-patch is starting to look a bit woolly and floppy by now – ours certainly is! – this is a good time to cut it back and encourage fresh new leaves to form before the end of the summer. Do this with all sorts of things like thyme, marjoram, rosemary, chives, sage and mint. If you want to intensify the flavour of your herbs (and who doesn’t?!), try not to let them flower.
Onions and shallots will be ready to harvest as soon as their stems have browned and fallen over. Dig them up without cutting the stems off and dry them for a few days – this will seal the flavour in the bulb and prevent rotting. When they are dry, it is really important to keep them that way, and it always looks impressive if you string them.
Loop a strong bit of twine about a metre and a half long round, somewhere dry and a little bit above your head – I use a handy nail in a stone wall. Tie both ends of the twine together, then take an onion/shallot with its dried leaves on, and weave the leaves in a figure of eight around the twine. I like to start with the biggest bulb first. Take another one and do the same, and just keep going to the top. A quick tidy-up at the end and – Voilà! A lovely string of onions worthy of any beret-ed Frenchman on a bicycle, and you don’t have to tell anyone how easy it was!
Hang your onion-strings in a dry place, and whenever you need some for cooking, just snip them off the loop. Here’s exactly how:
It’s been a great year for wisteria – we have even had a good second flowering on our Wisteria sinensis ‘Prolific’ (it has really lived up to its name!) Now is the time to get up the ladder and prune all the whippy shoots not needed for structural purposes. Cut them back to 5 or 6 leaves from the main stem, and you will create perfect spurs to carry next year’s flowers. If you don’t do it, a vigorous wisteria can quickly become a mass of tangled green growth, and this will affect future flowering.
* Start thinking about saving some seed of your favourite annuals – cosmos, cleome, nigella etc. Make sure the seed-head is ripe, snip it off and put it into a paper-bag or envelope, label it and keep the bag cool and dry, ready for sowing in autumn or next spring.
* Take a written or pictorial note of what in your garden took hot, dry weather in its stride, and what has hated it. I promise you, you will forget come the depths of winter and this amazing summer is but a distant memory.
* Cut out the old fruited summer raspberry canes and train in the new ones to carry the crop next year.