When the snowdrops under our crab-apple are in full bloom we know time is running out to get any major projects sorted before the spurt of new growth in September. This season the the constant drizzle of July has meant a lot of the hedging work has been delayed and it is now a race to have it all done before new growth starts. Lots of other tasks await also and with the weather as it has been predicted is not looking to co-operate with our plans for completion of them.
The divas of spring are about to come on stage but there is still a little time to make sure all is cleared in readiness for their entrance.
- All but the tender self sowers will have germinated by now weeding among them now will save heartache later.
- An essential weeding tool at this time of year is a small spray bottle of vinegar a squirt of washing up liquid and a teaspoon of salt. It deals with all the new weed seedlings most effectively. Particularly in among the stems of older perennials.
- Thin biennials such as for-get-me-not and Hesperis to promote singularly strong plants they will flower for a lot longer than a mass of tiny individuals.
- Self-sown perennials such as Knautia, Scabiosa, Asters and Salvias can be culled to one or two now to save a tangle developing later.
- In mild areas Delphiniums crowns will be plumping up at soil level, slug bait or coffee grounds regularly applied from now on will save wondering when those plump shoots will emerge. There is nothing so disappointing as discovering the hollowed out remains of a Delphinium clump in late spring just when they should be an impressive stand of hopeful buds..
Cutting flowers for the house should be a win win situation.
- Mahonia aquifolium, lomarifolia and repens are all indestructible plants for dry shade and all make wonderful cut-flowers at this time of year.
- Cutting Daphne for the house is a good way of keeping these shrubs within bounds. D odora it's girth and D bohlua its height. Both making wonderfully spicy additions to a small vase.
- Isolate any suckering shrubs by thrusting a post-hole shovel in around their perimeter this will make removal of suckers easier as they emerge over the summer.
- Chimonanthus praecox( Wintersweet) is in full flower now, cut as much for the house a possible - they soon end up flowering beyond reach if not disciplined and quickly respond to pruning.
- Forsythia x intermedia, Viburnum x bodnantense Deben or Dawn, are all great shrubs that provide cut flowers early in the season - use cutting them as a form of pruning.
- Sarcococca confusa is a handsome evergreen for use in houseflowers - particularly in late winter when the sweetly scented flowers emerge from the leaf axils
- Tree peonies need to be pruned and tidied. Remove old seed-heads, deadwood and any branches that are starting to lay below 45 degrees. These old branches will be replaced by more floriferous shoots if removed close to their base.
- Magnolias are in flower in milder areas and can be used for the house. Small flowering twigs that do not form part of the main branching structure can be used simply in a vase.
- Its 'last call' to have the hedges, both evergreen and deciduous, done before new growth commences in the next month or so - tidying can be done ongoing but the big lifting needs to be done by the end of the month.
- Feeding is important too - a complete plant food administered now is rewarded many fold over the warmer months.
- The main task for this month is de-thatching and spiking. There is little point in fertilizing until the soil temperature reaches 13 0r 14 degrees which is not until around the time Lilacs and snowball bushes flower.
- August is the best time for top-dressing the lawn - so if this is something that needs doing now's the time .
The reward for that little bit of extra effort with bedding plants is just around the corner - take a few precautions to avoid disaster.
- Poppies of all kinds will have germinated and be readying themselves for a spring push- now is the time to do any thinning (single plants produce greater quantities of flower ) use a pair of old scissors to cut away plants rather than disturb the group.
- Larkspurs generally need a little support and now is a good time to impale a few discrete sticks in amongst the groups.
- The beauty of having raised and planted wallflowers last summer is that with a bit of tidying the withering evidence of springs bulbs will be hidden for a while whilst they senesce.
- Ranunculus will be starting to elongate soon - now is a good time to put in a stout stake next to each one to avoid toppling in gusty spring weather. Scatter snail-bait or coffee grounds around to protect young plants.
Brilliant displays of potted bulbs are just around the corner and preparations for summer are in the offing.
- Pots of Jonquils can be bought into the house this month as they come into flower.
- In most cases pots of Cyclamen will be looking a bit drawn and tired - it's time to be ruthless.
- Pots of Stocks in the greenhouse will be starting to bulk up - keep them well fed.
- Splitting and dividing pots of Primula seiboldii should be done this month, before they become active.
- Pots of Freesia will be active by now and should be held in a frost free position or cold greenhouse. 5 Degrees C is the magic number any lower and they resent it.
- Re-pot and fertilize any evergreens used in your displays. A dose of Iron-chelates and a little slow release fertilizer watered in will keep any topiary in pots verdant over winter
So many joys to be had with just a little organization.
- Second season Sweet peas can be sown in tubes on heat this month
- Gladioli corms will be wanting to get a move shoot if left in the light but can be held until later if kept in the fridge in a dark container
- August is a good time to move bales of mulch this close to where it will be needed - timely use of it makes life easier.
- So many flowers ,bright and pastel, are enhanced in the company of acid greens so planting a row of Alchemilla ( in cooler areas) or Euphorbia oblongata ( coralloides) in drier zones makes sense. And if you can't bear to cut snowball bush ( Viburnum opulus ) from the garden plant a few bushes in the cutting garden to brutalize for the house. The cleaner stems are easier to use.
- Shrubs for forcing - Abeliophyllum, Forsythia and Winter Honeysuckle are valuable shrubs to have in the garden for forcing this month. Pick them just as they show buds in the leaf axils and bring them inside to open.
- Check stored Dahlias to make sure all is well, a preliminary cleaning is a good idea if time allows.
- Rose pruning is this months must do job
Have the following at the ready for winter jobs
- Potting mix
- Lime, Iron-sulphate, Potassium-sulphate,
- Blood and Bone
- Sphagnum moss
- Snail bait
- Stakes for tree planting
- Bamboo canes in various sizes
- Copper-sulphate to deal with mossy lawns
- Slow release fertilizer
The Mower man is getting ready for his busiest season make sure your first in the queue.
- Send hedgers, chainsaws etc off for sharpening once the back of winter hedging has been broken. Sharp tolls make a finer job possible over the summer.
- Send the mower off for it's yearly service if you haven't already done - you know putting it off will only cause headaches in spring!
The emptying of the compost bins over winter is always gratifying, all that goodness for free.
- When filling up the compost bins try and keep the proportion of green and brown waste equable and add lime ( to sweeten) and old compost ( to inoculate) as you go.
- We use a few smaller logs to weight down the bulk of our new compost heaps to help the decomposition process get started.