The plentiful August rain round here has kept things green and growing. Disappointing for the high holiday season, but it has meant that the garden has avoided its usual ‘parched desert’ look – hurray! Jobs for August include cutting hedges, supporting late border-stars and planting bulbs as we look forward to the end of the year and beyond…………
Heading for the beech
The nesting season is basically over for another year, and this is a great time to give your hedges a good neat trim-up, so that they look spruce for the winter ahead. They are unlikely to put on much now in the way of new growth, and will retain their sharper appearance until next spring. Tender new growth can harden up a bit before winter. An additional bonus here is that our big beech hedge-plants can be kept ‘young’ by trimming, and therefore retain their warm brown leaves through the winter – it keeps our cottage garden that little bit cosier.
It is annoyingly hard to keep a straight level line along the top of a hedge. You spend two hours getting an immaculately coiffeur-ed surface the length of your privet, and then find that you have achieved a rather ludicrous green ski-slope instead. The most reliable way we have found to combat this is to have string drawn tightly between two posts at either end of the hedge at the same height as each other, and cut off everything above that height. Just try to avoid cutting the string!
We have found that it’s worth spreading a tarpaulin or old dustsheet under the hedge before starting to cut to collect the cuttings, and push them off the top as you work your way along.
We have been delighted with a new battery-operated hedge-trimmer this year – a Worx WG252E. This one is handily expandable and even has a mini-chainsaw attachment to tackle tree branches 2.8 high, while you’re standing safely on the ground. It’s much lighter and more eco-friendly than a petrol-driven hedge-trimmer, and easier to manage than a corded one: even with the necessary circuit-breaker, avoiding the flex with the blade always felt a fairly hairy procedure. If you’re interested in finding out more about it, I’ve put a link at the bottom.
Start from the bottom and work upwards, holding the blades in parallel with the sides, and finishing with the top. Try to cut the hedge sides to a ‘batter’: the edges gently sloping inwards from a wide base. Not only is your hedge less likely to splay outwards especially under a heavy snowfall, but it lets more light reach the lower branches.
If you’re into topiary, late August is also the time to tidy up your peacocks and funky oriental-looking cloud-pruned evergreens with clippers, shears or secateurs (Laura! Time to sharpen up your triceratops!). And trimming newly-planted hedges will encourage them into bushier growth, lightly cutting the top to make it branch out.
Autumn-blooming flowers and shrubs will look all the better for the crisp outlines of your hedges – it gives a pleasing impression that you’re still in charge (even if that is a complete fallacy!)
Supporting autumn stars
Do you grow dahlias, chrysanthemums and other tall autumn beauties? Having done all the work of starting them into growth, keeping them free of critters and fungal diseases, fed and watered them, disbudding them etc. etc., it can be terribly disheartening to see that an overnight August or September gale has flattened them and your planned display is a floppy mess.
So get some strong supports in early enough that later growth will hide them – think, sturdy undergarments providing the smooth outlines of designer clothes.
A framework of bamboo canes works well. It still allows the stems to move a little in the wind and reduces the risk of stem breakage. If you’re tying individual stems to stakes, do it loosely for the same reason. Other methods include pushing short canes round a group of plants and looping green twine round them, or using plastic-coated metal stakes that link together.
By the way, earwigs can be a pest when they feast on dahlia petals overnight. Make a humane trap for them: push a cane into the ground with the top at flower level. Make a buffer to stop the pot sliding down by knotting string round the cane near the top. Cut a little cross in the base of a small pot, stuff it with straw, and push it upside-down onto the cane. Shake any earwigs out of your trap each morning and put them on your fruit-trees where they will happily eat the aphids instead!
- If the leaves of your spud plants turn brown and start to shrivel up, they’ve got blight. Cut them off pronto, but don’t put them on the compost heap. Harvest the crop asap, and clear any other potato plant material to lessen the chance of the disease overwintering. Still on the subject of potatoes, you can plant specially cold-treated ones in containers of compost (with drainage holes, of course) now. Grow them in a frost-free place through autumn and early winter, to have an impressive fresh homegrown addition to your festive feasts this coming Christmas.
- You can start planting daffodil bulbs or Madonna lilies for next year, and plant colchicum (autumn crocus) bulbs shallowly in a hot spot, that will flower in about 6 weeks time!
- Stressed basil, leaf beet or rocket crops can start to bolt (elongating and starting to form flower-buds). It is probably worth trying to rescue the plants by cutting off the flowering stems right down to the base, and giving them a hefty drink of water. It should mean that you can harvest their leaves for at least a few more weeks.
NB If you’d like a bit more gardening chitchat from the3growbags, please type your email address here and we’ll send you a new post every Saturday morning.