From the torrential rain to the searing heat and back again – it’s amazing our gardens are standing at all! But they are, and giving us heaps of pleasure (and work and grief, sometimes!).When weather permits, let’s get on with some tasks like cutting back early perennials, feeding rhododendrons and harvesting courgettes…………
The next generation
We have been lucky enough to have two of our small grandchildren staying with us for a fortnight, and it’s been an absolute joy to get them out in the garden ‘doing’ things. Two weeks is not long enough to get much return on seed-sowing, but planting small things into the children’s own little patch has been an absorbing activity for them.
There is a great deal out on the web and in books about fancy gardening activities for children like making rain gauges, wormeries, sunflower competitions and the like, and these are certainly all fabulous for engendering interest. But just being OUT THERE (suitably protected from the sun, of course!) is enough, especially if they’re under 5. We’ve watched shiny beetles and furry caterpillars, admired the colours of a Tigermoth, and giggled about how you have to give the feet of your plants a drink each day, not their mouths! It’s not necessary to have a load of special equipment to help children take their first steps in horticulture, but our two have enjoyed using the very sweet children’s tools by Burgon and Ball (link at the end) – they’re sturdy, brightly-coloured and well-thought-out, as you’d expect from this company.
Our gardening activities also included some …..errr…’related’ fun like making perfumes from rose petals, cutting blooms for a little vase in their bedroom, making rude noises by blowing through a blade of grass, and finding marsh frogs croaking outrageously loudly on the pond. Quiet, unhurried things to do with little ones in a garden, that are a world away from screens and the Xbox.
The point beyond the simple joy of sharing these things with children is surely this. If we can gently coax a love of the natural world in the new generation, we will also be recruiting more potential supporters for the critically-important challenge of tackling climate-change and preserving our deeply precious diversity of plants and wildlife in general.
The early summer flowers are over, and the recent blazing weather may well have hastened the end of their season of beauty. If you have planned your borders well, you will have allowed for this, and planted things to follow that and keep the garden colourful through August and September at least – asters, Verbena, Rudbeckia, Echinacea (like the feature pic this week), Hyelotelephium (sedum), etc.
But here’s the thing. You have loved your delphiniums, Alchemilla, lupins, foxgloves and so on, and so you feel mean about chopping them down when there is still a flower or two remaining on them. But DO IT! GET CHOPPING! And here’s why:
- Your late-summer lovelies will be very grateful for a bit of light and air
- You will be more aware if these late plants need some looking-after (watering, feeding, staking etc.
- The early summer plants won’t suffer at all from a chop-back, especially if you give them an extra drink and a drop of fertiliser into the bargain – some might even throw up more flowers.
- And you’ll be able to appreciate your late summer/autumn flowers in all their fabulous glory.
The only caveat is that if you are going to save seed from those early-flowering perennials, you should leave their stems on for the seed to ripen fully before collecting it in paper bags to store or sow.
Now is a good time to give rhododendrons and azaleas a feed of acidic fertiliser. Something like Miracid or Sequestrene will give them a good boost to start producing buds for next year’s flowering. While we are on the subject of acid-lovers, help camellias to form more buds by making sure they don’t run short of water in the summer.
We have had some breathlessly hot weather recently – don’t forget that houseplants on windowsills can get scorched by the sun. Move them to a cooler spot during hot spells or put a bit of net curtain up to shield them from the blazing rays.
Start to harvest courgettes, shallots and runner beans from now onwards. Remember to cut courgettes while they are still quite small through the stem with a sharp knife.
The link to Burgon and Ball is here.
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