I do hope this holiday season is going spiffingly well for you. There is a more easeful air about the garden in August. In Scotland, the children are already back at school and in our gardens almost everything that was going to happen, has now happened, apart from the late flowerers and the harvesting of fruit and veg. There are still a few nice little tasks you might consider while you wander around assessing your garden performance this year and wondering if you can throw the barbie away rather than clean it (you really can’t).
ROSES FOR FREE
Everyone has been admiring that gorgeous rose bush of yours – how about making more of it? You can take cuttings from all sorts of roses and the only thing to remember is that they might not have the vigour of your original plant. This is because the ‘mother-plant’ will almost certainly have been grafted onto a stronger rootstock, but your cutting will be growing on its own roots.
Cut a stem of about pencil thickness from this year’s growth, about 10 inches (25 cm) in length. Trim it up, taking off the tip and cutting just above a leaf bud at the top and just below one at the bottom. You can leave the top leaf on, but strip off all the others. It’s usually a good idea to dip the bottom into some hormone rooting powder or gel but I don’t think it’s essential. Then insert the cutting up to half its length into garden soil (or gritty compost in a pot), and keep it watered. I speak from experience in telling you NOT to move your rose cuttings until you know they are really well-rooted with plenty of new growth – and that may not be until next summer. Watch my short video to give you a better idea of the process involved.
Ordinarily, Apple and pear trees are pruned in the winter during their dormant season, but if you are growing these fruits are cordons, espaliers or fans, late August is the perfect time to shape them up. If your tree is still in the formation stage, you must tie in the main stems that you want, and shorten all the sideshoots on them (the posh name is ‘laterals’) to about 3 leaves from their basal leaf-cluster. Then cut back any shoots on those laterals to one leaf only. Whatever shape you are after, when your chosen stems have reached their desired length (as have mine, on espaliered crab apple trees Malus ‘Red Sentinel’), cut them back to 2 buds, and check over the tree for any unpruned shoots that need cutting back to one leaf – these spurs are where your blossom and fruit will be borne next year.
It’s so tempting to start having a big tidy-up, whipping off all those seedheads and faded stems, but can I make a gentle plea to leave some of them on through the autumn and winter? If you can bear to delay your garden-sorting until late February or March next year, all sorts of birds and small mammals would be very grateful for this bonus food source. Perhaps you might also consider not dead-heading all of the roses and allowing them to form hips – another welcome food-source for birds in bitter weather.
* After checking for any late nest-building, give your hedges a final trim before they stop growing, to keep them looking neat through the winter.
* Take the spent flower-heads off lilies so that they channel their energies into generating more flower-power next year, rather than trying to produce seed.
* Harvest plums, greengages etc.now as well as early–ripening varieties of apple – remember if you cup an apple in your hand and raise it gently to the horizontal, it should detach readily from the branch. If it doesn’t, it’s not ready to pick.
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