Bargain plants and parsley pickings – Grow-How tips for August

Pelargonium
Elaine

Here in the parched south, our gardens were greatly revived by the recent welcome rain – just what was needed! We’ve got lots of treats for you this week including a new Veg Update from Laura, and two reviews of products we have been trialling – see the links at the end of this post. Tasks for late August include taking pelargonium cuttings, watering camellias and picking up cut-price plants……………

Pelargonium cuttings

Do you like the bright displays of pelargoniums (our feature picture this week) that blaze at this time of year? There’s such a hot-weather exuberance about them, isn’t there!

They can often get very big and have ugly less-productive stems if you try to keep them somewhere frost-free until the following year. The trick to having fabulous blooms every year is to take a load of cuttings now from your plants. I promise you they’re quite easy, they’ll take up less room over the winter and grow into lovely strong plants by next summer. It will save you money too – you won’t have to buy new tender plants next spring!

This will work well for fuchsias too, and it’s a good plan to take cuttings of penstemons and osteospermums as well in case the winter turns bitter.

Find healthy stems on your chosen plant. Ideally these won’t have a flower on them but if they do, pinch them off – you want your cuttings to concentrate their efforts on producing roots not opening flowers.

2. Cut each stem about 2-5″ (5-11 cm) just below a leaf joint, and take off the lower leaves.

3. Use a dibber or the end of a pencil to insert them round the edge of pots of gritty compost, then top off the pot with grit or vermiculite. Any suspicion of sogginess is your enemy here, because it will cause your cuttings to rot before they root (you want to keep hold of that extra ‘o’!)

Take cuttings of pelargoniums now for great plants next summer

4. Water your pots and leave them in a warm well-lit place to root.

5. Pot up your cuttings individually once they have rooted, and keep them somewhere frost-free and as well-lit as you can manage over the winter, watering them sparingly.

Bargain basement

Oooh, we all love a bargain, don’t we! The cut-price section has a strong appeal whether it’s in a supermarket or a clothes shop, and I find it’s even more tempting at a garden centre or nursery.

Along with so many other businesses, it’s been a very tough year for garden-centres, and more than usual, they could be selling off plants that are past their sell-by date for one reason or another. August represents an end-of-season time and lots of places will be wanting to shift plants ready for new autumn and Christmas stock.

But be a bit selective about this. Speaking as someone who has made some truly daft purchases in the past including annual poppies in September…. Here are a few tips:

a) Don’t bother with annuals and bedding plants, unless they are more or less free, or you are desperate for a short-lived splash of colour. They are probably still in titchy pots or modules and will never do anything much before they die in late autumn.

b) Cut-price pots of grasses can look pretty manky and dead, but if you can see a few green shoots among the brown ones, they can often be revived very well indeed. Give it a new larger pot, food, water and a severe trim, and you can work wonders with these.

c) Another very good buy can be early-flowering summer perennials or shrubs, including roses. Anyone who works in the horticultural industry knows that if a plant has flowers on it, it’s more likely to sell quickly. Once that seasonal display is finished, such plants may well be cheaper, and still in very good condition.

d) Look out for perennial plants that you can divide into smaller pieces – cranesbills, astrantias, hostas etc. – once you get them home.

Geraniums like this G.sanguineum ‘Khan’ might be bought cheaply and can then be divided to make more plants

e) Avoid anything in compost that has dried out completely or whose stem looks very weak or rotten. In my experience, they are almost impossible to turn into good garden plants, and you don’t want to end up with a garden full of lame ducks.

f) Stuck in the same pot for ages, trees and shrubs will probably have roots going round and round the base – be a bit ruthless with these, pulling them apart and even cutting some, to encourage them to branch out into your garden soil. Keep them well-watered for the first year. This was what I had to do with my best-ever cut-price purchase – a Liriodendron (tulip tree) which was only a tenner. Twelve years on, and it’s the finest tree in my garden!

My bargain Liriodendron in its lovely autumn colours

Pass the parsley

Parsley is one of those ridiculously handy herbs. I’m no cook, but my culinary whizz of a husband uses it for loads of different dishes.

If you sow parsley seeds now, you can keep your supply going all winter. Sow quite a lot of seed because they won’t regrow leaves once you have started harvesting.

Sow parsley seeds now for leaves during the winter

Soak the seeds for 24/36 hours to aid germination (which can be slow, I warn you). Just sprinkle the seeds over a seed tray of compost, then sprinkle with sieved compost, and put the tray into a shallow container of tepid water. Take it out once the surface looks wet.

Parsley sown now will give you pickings over the winter

Leave the seed tray in a warm place to germinate (might take three weeks) A piece of clingfilm over the top will help conserve warmth and moisture. Once the seedlings are big enough to handle, plant 4-5 to a pot to pick through the winter, but be gentle with them – they don’t enjoy root disturbance much.

Parsley is a hardy biennial so the plants can go outside, or otherwise inside in good light, for ease of harvesting. Chervil with its delicately-aniseed flavour is another bone-hardy herb you can sow now.

Gardening Shorts

  • Make sure that camellias are well-watered at this time of year – they are forming next spring’s flower buds right now.
Give Camellias plenty of water now for good flowering next spring
  • Tidy up early-summer-flowering perennials if their stems are obscuring autumn-flowering treasures.
  • Prune wisteria shoots back to 5 leaves from the woody framework to ensure fabulous flowers next year.
It’s time to give the wisteria a really good haircut.

Laura has tips on what to do with any surplus veg you might have and update on her resident barn owls this week in her Veg Patch Update below..

NB If you’d like a bit more gardening chit-chat from the3growbags, just enter your email address here and we’ll send you a new post every Saturday morning…

Read our reviews here of:

A fabulous new spade

A device to take the sting out of insect bites (it works)

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