As the shadows start to extend across the lawn, you can feel that autumnal atmosphere creeping up on us from around the corner – BUT summer is not over yet!
You may feel, as I sometimes do, that your garden is now getting past its best. The show offs have faded and things are quite literally going to seed. But with a little effort, it is possible to keep up the show for another few weeks at least.
The main thing to keep on top of at this time of year is DEADHEADING. As a plant passes through its natural lifecycle, it is probably getting to that stage where it wants to expend energy in seed production for next year’s blooms. Whilst you do of course want blooms next year, you can delay the process somewhat by taking off the faded flower heads before they have a chance to produce their seed. If you do this, the plant will begin the process all over again and produce another flower head. In this way, you can prolong the flowering period for a few weeks. It does take effort though – I call it the deadhead walk – a slow little walk around the garden each evening with snippers in hand. It can be a lovely meditative time – a time for you to really look closely at your plants and maybe think about next years planting schemes.
When deadheading, it is important not to merely whip the faded flower head off, but to take it down to the next leaf or bud. This not only looks better, but it will also help to stimulate new growth. And remember to keep watering your plants, especially in dry weather and to continue with a feed once a week.
The second half of August will also see a glut in the vegetable garden – at the moment I am inundated with courgettes, tomatoes, peas and beans together with some really rather lovely tender stem brocoli. The key to maintaining this bountiful offering is to keep picking and harvesting. A wide variety of lovely homegrown veggies is exactly what you want of course, but you may, like my family, get rather fed up of courgettes for dinner every night!! In which case, you can freeze them. I cut them into thickish slices and steam blanche them before freezing them on trays. Once frozen, I then decant them into freezer bags for use throughout the next few months. It’s also a good time to sow things for later harvesting – I have been sowing more beetroot, cabbages and pak choi.
Another good thing about late August, especially in this rather unseasonal windy weather, is the availability of windfall apples. If you have a fruit tree of any kind, you will notice perhaps smaller fruits lying around the base at this time of year. If you are quick and can get there before the squirrels etc then you can collect the windfalls and either enjoy them now or freeze them. My family love apple and blackberry crumble – and fortunately the blackberries are also looking good this year.
Here at the shop, we are starting to think about Autumn too. We are beginning to plan our Autumn season of workshops – which of course will need to be restructured to ensure that they are compliant with Covid-19 regulations. We are also thinking about plants which start to look their best in Autumn – dhalias and sedums in particular start to do their thing around now and they can bring some much needed colour back into a fading summer garden.
We have also restocked on outdoor pots – so now would be a good time to start planning autumn/winter planter arrangements. Choose a good sized pot and place broken crocks in the bottom to aid drainage, then fill with a mix of compost and horticultural grit. Once you’ve done that it’s time for the fun part – choosing the plants. Sedums will continue to look great for months, together with small ever greens and spirea – and of course the ever popular winter pansies.
What ever you decide to do in your garden in August – enjoy!