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Relax, it's summer...picture by Merv French

Relax, it’s summer…picture by Merv French

August can be a bit of a ‘graveyard’ month – few things are looking good in the garden as the first flushes of growth on many plants have died or been pruned away and there’s not much (yet) to replace them. It can be one of the hottest, driest months in the UK, too, making watering essential – and this could be a problem if you’re on holiday and don’t have friends or neighbours (or an automatic watering system) to do it for you. So this month’s tips are mainly about harvesting, maintaining colour and interest, pruning and propagating new plants – and of course, watering!

1. Prune now for next year’s fruit and flowers

To encourage flowering or fruiting shoots, prune early flowering shrubs if not already done so and also trim back the new straggly stems of Wisteria to about 5 or 6 buds above the joint with the main stem – this will encourage energy to go into forming new flowering spurs. Do the same for fan or other trained fruit like plums, cherries a etc. Cut out the old fruiting stems of summer raspberries to encourage the new stems to grow and tie these in as you go to stop them rocking around too much. Sever, lift and pot up strawberry runners if you want to replace old plants or expand your strawberry bed. Trim back your lavender once it has finished flowering, to stop it growing leggy (but just the tops- don’t cut into old, woody stems).

2. Cut out the dead or diseased

Dead head and ‘dead leaf’ perennials and annuals to prolong flowering as long as possible and keep plants looking tidy. Cut back herbs (Chives, Chervil, Fennel, Marjoram etc.) to encourage a new flush of tasty leaves that you can harvest before the first frost. Dry or freeze your herbs to use in the kitchen later on or sow some in pots that you can bring inside later in the year.  Look out for symptoms of Clematis Wilt such as wilting leaves and black discolouration on the leaves and stems of your Clematis. Cut out any infected plant material and dispose of it in your household waste.

Clematis wilt

Clematis wilt

3. Water when necessary

Containers, hanging baskets and new plants in particular need a regular water and some will need to be fed too. Ideally use stored rainwater or ‘grey water’ (recycled from household washing, but only that without soap and detergents etc.). Keep ponds, bog gardens and water features topped up. Particularly thirsty plants include:

  • Phlox

  • Aster

  • Persicaria

  • Aconitum

  • Helenium

  • Monarda

4. Mulch

To conserve moisture in the soil around plants use a mulch of organic material. An easy option is grass clippings –  put these on a plastic sheet and leave for a day in the sunshine. Turn the pile of clippings and leave for another day, or until they have turned brown. Spread the mulch round each plant, but avoid covering the crown as you might encourage it to rot. As mulch attracts slugs avoid those plants that these pests enjoy – Hostas, Delphiniums etc. Check that any mulch applied earlier hasn’t decomposed and add more as needed. Ideally, spread a mid-season layer of compost or manure – this will act to conserve moisture and feed the plants too.

Harvest Sweet corn this month

Harvest Sweet corn this month

5. Harvest home

Pick vegetables such as Sweet Corn. Pinch out the top of tomato plants to concentrate the growth into the fruit that has already formed. Aim to leave 5 or 6 trusses of fruit per plant. If you’re going away ask a neighbour / friend to pick your flowers, salad and veg to prevent everything running to seed in your absence.

6. Last chance saloon 

In the early part of the month sow your last veg for autumn/ winter harvesting (e.g chard or spinach). You can also sow salad leaves under cover in warmer areas. And sow green manures in ground that is going to be left vacant for a few months so as to help maintain nutrient levels and to keep weeds down.

7. Think seeds

Gather seeds from plants you want to propagate in this way and store them/ seed heads in paper bags if it’s not yet ripe. And why not allow some self seeding in some areas? Mow wild flower meadows to allow seeds to spread for next year.

Divide Bearded irises to give the divisions time to establish

Divide Bearded irises to give the divisions time to establish

8. Divide to multiply 

If the weather and soil conditions allow, start dividing perennials, perhaps beginning with bearded Irises. Either replant the divisions in the garden or pot them up for later sales/swaps/gifts.

9. Cut to grow 

Take cuttings, an excellent way of increasing your woody and semi-woody plants like fuchsias and pelargoniums. Choose a healthy shoot and cut the top six inches, then remove all but the topmost leaves. For insurance, dip in a little rooting powder and place in moist compost. Keep them in a cold greenhouse from September and plant them in their positions next spring, when there is not much chance of heavy frost.

August is a good time for taking Fuchsia cuttings

August is a good time for taking Fuchsia cuttings

10. Enjoy and inspect

Spend a good amount of time in the garden enjoying it – asleep, with friends or just admiring what you and mother nature have created! And while you’re at it make notes / take photos of your borders etc. to identify any problem areas that need sorting out for next year; overcrowded groups of plants, gaps, areas lacking colour or interest, weak looking plants etc. And it’s also important to record good plant combinations you might want to repeat – or just take pictures of those good looking areas for the record.

Old School Gardener

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As flowers go over be sure to deadhead regularly where appropriate to encourage longer flowering on into the Autumn and generally prevent the garden from looking frazzled and messy.

Collect seed pods for those plants that you’re planning to re-seed, and those that you don’t want to reseed themselves.

Prune back your pleached fruit trees, leaving 3 or 4 leaves on each sideshoot.  If any of your other fruit trees need pruning, do this immediately after you have harvested.

Trim back your lavender once it has finished flowering, to stop it growing leggy.

Although weeds will be growing more slowly than in the spring, it’s an idea to continue to hoe the soil to keep them down. This should be done in warm, dry conditions to ensure any weed seedlings left on the surface dehydrate and die.

If you’re going away ask a neighbour / willing family member to pick your flowers, salad and veg to prevent everything running to seed in your absence.

Now is the time to look at your borders and note any gaps / congestion that you’ll want to rectify later in the season when everything has gone over, ahead of next year. And start your shopping list for Autumn bulbs.

And of course, at this time of year, watering is key. Keep on top of this daily, making sure you water in the morning or late afternoon-evening to prevent the heat evaporating all the water before it reaches the plant roots.

Grow Your Own

Flowers
Support your dahlias, lilies and gladioli with stakes and flower rings to ensure the weight of their beautiful flower doesn’t cause their stems to break.

Chrysanths will benefit from being pinched or sheared back, encouraging more growth and flowers.

Keep picking your cut flowers to encourage more blooms and a longer flowering season.

Towards the end of August you can start planning next year’s colour by sowing your hardy annuals.

Grow Your Own

Veg and Salad

Plant out your leeks and brassicas if you haven’t already, and you can also squeeze in a final sowing of spinach and chard in the first couple of weeks of August.

Sow salad leaves under cover, or out in the open if in warmer parts of the UK.


Herbs 
Sow Basil,  Marjoram, Borage, Chervil, Chives, Coriander, Dill, Parsley in pots outside, to make moving them indoors as easy as possible in the late autumn

Fruit
Transplant strawberry runners to a new position.

Ensure that your fruit crops aren’t pinched by the birds by covering with netting, ensuring the netting stands well clear of the fruit.

Harvesting Food – What you could be picking and eating this time next year, or – if you’re an old hand – already are 

- See more at: http://www.sarahraven.com/august-in-the-garden#sthash.xPIdXOO2.dpuf

scrabbling about in the garden

Can you spot the odd one out?

Old School Gardener

Old School Gardener

IMG_9469Old School Garden – 30th July 2014

To Walter Degrasse

Dear Walter,

I’ve just read the latest chapter of an interesting book- ‘Noah’s Garden’, by Sara Stein. recommended to me by a fellow tweeter (thanks Jo Ellen). This twenty-one year old book tells of the author’s quest to garden more ecologically- or about ‘unbecoming a gardener’, as she puts it. In language as rich as the ‘natural garden’ she describes, Stein’s offering must have been one of the earliest manifestoes for a less intensive, less expensive, less consuming style of gardening. Despite the North American setting and species, she makes a pretty compelling case that’s as applicable to the UK as the USA. Here’s how the chapter I’ve just read ends:

‘Provided one plants a reasonable facsimile of a natural ecosystem- particularly with regard to a generous diversity of species adapted to the habitat- one can retire from that rank of gardeners and homeowners who, supposing that their services are the only ones that matter, work too hard, pay too much, and in return are cheated of the bounty that natural plantings offer.’

My purchase was prompted by my mention of moles and the trouble their burrowings and excavations are giving me in Old School Garden- I think that I mentioned this last month. Well, they are still here and my daily routine seems to start with using a leaf rake to gently spread the moles’ nightly offerings together with the removal of the biggest stones. In short, large parts of the lawn are looking a right old mess. But I’m starting to take a sanguine view, I suppose, fuelled by the advocacy of an ‘ecological approach’ to my plot in ‘Noah’s Garden’!

Hosta haven- the courtyard garden

Hosta haven- the courtyard garden

It’s been a rather ‘laid back’ month here, old friend. The summer heat has built quite nicely and the long days of sunny weather have finally arrived following a rather wet and dismal Spring. I’ve reduced my gardening time to a couple of hours a day (at most) and spent some periods on the terrace, reading, listening to music and enjoying the surroundings. These times have been the closest to ‘contentment’ I’ve been , I think! Here are some pictures of blooms that are doing their stuff at present.

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The ornamental garden  has shot up and I’m amazed at the height of some things- the Achillea, Macleaya and Helianthemum to name just three. Some of the annuals have proved disappointing (e.g Nicotiana) and I was interested to hear that another local gardener (the Head Gardener at nearby Salle Park where I did part of my Heritage Gardening traineeship), has also had very mixed results. Deborah and I cycled there last Sunday for their open day and as usual the standards of horticulture on display were exceptional, though Katie (the aforementioned Head Gardener) bemoaned the fact that the roses which I said were looking really healthy and had assumed were just about to give their second flush of flowers, had in fact been ‘nibbled’ by something earlier and the flower buds we saw were in fact the first round! Anyway here are some pictures of the ornamental areas of Old School Garden, just to keep you up to date with how things look at present.

As for food, I’m pleased to say (fingers crossed) that the blight problem with the greenhouse tomatoes seems to have receded; a combination of higher temperatures, removing infected and other foliage, watering less and only on the ground, keeping ventilation up, feeding more frequently and spraying with ‘Bordeaux Mixture’ seems to have paid off. We’ve had our first few tomatoes from here (along with the ones I’m growing in hanging baskets) and there are more to come, though perhaps inevitably the crop is reduced because of the drastic action I’ve taken. Ho hum, you win some you lose some….but the bush fruit contnues to impress!

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Talking of losing, I harvested the beetrootyesterday- well what is left of it. I must take more time to keep an eye on things! Something (slugs? beetles?) has eaten round the tops of virtually all of the roots so that I guess only about 50% of the harvest is usable. Still, there should be enough to satisfy Deborah’s pickling needs for another year. The onions and garlic have also been disappointing. I planted these out last Autumn and the wet winter and dull spring  (probably along with poor positioning in the garden), seem to have prevented much growth in these, but again there is at least something to show for my efforts.

On a more positive note, the cucumbers, courgettes and squashes seem to be doing well and I can see that courgette will be a major veg ingredient on the table in the next month or two! And we’ve had our second (good) crop of Gooseberries, this time the sweeter, red varieties. These are destined for a ‘fool’ I’m making tomorrow with Elder Flower cordial. Also, the sunflowers in the Kitchen Garden have romped away. Here is a selection of pics of them- they always add a cheery note to any garden, I think.

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Further afield, I said my goodbyes to the two School Gardening projects I’ve been involved with this year. The one at Fakenham Academy seems likely to be halted due to lack of cash, but maybe some activity will continue on a more limited basis; I do hope so, for several of the youngsters I worked with seemed to have caught the ‘growing bug’.

As Deborah has just retired (38 years of teaching), I thought it best to also draw a line under my involvement at the local Primary School where she worked. It’s been a joy helping the children here over many years and an input I’ve been proud of, including a lot of tree and hedge planting to make the grounds a more diverse and interesting place for outdoor learning. So, as Deborah and I enter a new phase in our lives, I guess I’ll be looking for another challenge…watch this space.

IMG_9435

Hanging baskets at Old School Garden

We’re off to Suffolk for a week with some old college friends next week, so this next day or two I must get the garden ready for a week of less attention – hopefully our good neighbours will do some essential watering and harvesting while we’re away. Then, in September (for the first time ever due to school terms!) we’re off to Spain and Portugal, hopefully to include a further visit to the Alhambra in Granada, the garden I visited about 8 years ago and which really gave me the inspiration to get into gardening and garden design. I’ll do some posts on all my garden visits as and when, and hopefully keep up the momentum on the blog whilst on holiday.

The Walled Garden at Salle Park, Norfolk

The Walled Garden at Salle Park, Norfolk

I do hope you and Ferdy are faring well, Walter, and enjoying the lovely weather (it looks like it’s becoming more unsettled just as we go on holiday). We both wish you a lovely Summer break and look forward to seeing you in the Autumn.

Al the best,

Old School Gardener

 

 

Originally posted on National Trust Press Office:

A new Archimedes screw at Cragside in Northumberland will harness the power of water to relight this grand Victorian house just as its previous owner Lord Armstrong did back in 1878.

View original 654 more words

Originally posted on Raxa Collective:

agrivoltaics

Farming food and fuel, side by side

Thanks to Conservation, and particularly Courtney White, for this synopsis:

What is the best way to utilize sunlight—to grow food or to produce fuel?

For millennia, the answer was easy: we used solar energy to grow plants that we could eat. Then, in the 1970s, the answer became more complex as fields of photovoltaic panels (PVPs) began popping up all over the planet, sometimes on former farmland. In the 1990s, farmers began growing food crops for fuels such as corn-based ethanol. The problem is that the food-fuel equation has become a zero-sum game.

View original 455 more words

Old School Gardener

curiosity corner gfw

 ‘Curiosity Corner’ – a garden I (with help), created for under 5’s to explore at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse, Norfolk

Old School Gardener

Originally posted on not at home:

The Villa Ephrussi Rothschild is surrounded by nine magnificent gardens decorated with patios, waterfalls, ornamental ponds, flowerbeds, shady paths and rare species of trees.

The gardens took seven years to complete, from 1905 to 1912. The site chosen for the Villa, with all the grandeur of its dual aspects, was not however particularly conducive to the establishment of a garden. In fact, the creation of a landscaped park on this rocky promontory covered in trees and battered by gusts of wind would be an amazing feat. But that was no obstacle!

All they had to do was to dynamite the ground and bring in enormous quantities of earth to make it flat. Hundreds of Italian workers were hired for these colossal excavation works. In 1912, on the day the Villa was inaugurated, the four hectares of garden were still not completely landscaped:  Béatrice Ephrussi gave priority to the areas that were…

View original 191 more words

Originally posted on Municipal Dreams:

Municipal Dreams is back on its travels with this follow-up post by Ben Austwick to his account of pioneering social housing in Amsterdam published last week. You can read Ben’s other writings on art and architecture at his blog: http://doilum.blogspot.co.uk/

In the previous post, I looked at the Amsterdam School’s early work in the north of the city where Michel de Klerk laid a radical blueprint for a new kind of working-class housing at Het Schip, an experimental building that emphasised the communal and worked to socialist ideals. Here I will look at Plan Zuid, town planner Hendrik Petrus Berlage’s rebuilding of south Amsterdam from 1917 where the Amsterdam School’s philosophy was writ large in a grand slum clearance project.

A bird's-eye view of the new Plan Zuid as envisaged by Berlage © Wikimedia Commons

A bird’s eye view of the new Plan Zuid as drawn by Berlage

Plan Zuid levelled south Amsterdam to be rebuilt on Berlage’s principles. Avenues are bordered by estates of Amsterdam School…

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