Rushlake Green Village Leaf

Gardening Diary August 2014

" If the 24th of August be fair and clear, then hope for a prosperous autumn that year."

The brilliant tints of summer tend to give way this month to the richer and softer golds and bronzes of autumn, nevertheless, vivid splashes are created by phloxes and gladioli and hollyhocks. Where the practice of removing spent flowers before seed pods have a chance to form, summer flowering subjects can be induced to keep blooming for a greatly extended period. If, as so often happens, holidays cut into the month it is sound practice to go over bedding plants and remove all flowers and buds which are just opening to ensure that they don't spend themselves in seed production before our return. The temporary relief thus afforded the plants will be reflected in a gay later display.

We must not relax warfare against insect pests and diseases. Fungoid diseases also may be troublesome at this season and as soon as noted due measures should be taken. Watch especially the roses for black spot, rust and mildew, these have been widespread this year because of the the wet and mild winter, although we can do nothing for tarnished leaves, spraying now will prevent the fungus maturing spores, which will reduce the risk of more serious attacks next year.

In the vegetable patch keep up the feeding of runner and French beans and tomatoes. Brussels sprouts and winter greens will not pay well next spring unless they grow freely now; adequate space should always be given. To hasten ripening it is well to pinch out the growing points on outdoor tomatoes as soon as four trusses of fruit have set, any trusses formed later seldom ripen, towards the end of the month any unripened fruits may be cut together with a length of stem and hung in a warm sunny place to ripen. During dry spells the flowers of runner beans will often wither without setting. A fine spray of water over the whole plant will help encourage a good set of beans. Chives will benefit from dividing at this time, the whole plant may be lifted, cut through with a knife and divisions planted at least a foot apart.

As crops are harvested the ground may be filled again with sowings of lettuce and spinach or planted up with cabbages and other winter greens. The ground should be watered prior to sowing and if conditions are hot and dry some damp covering may be used until the seed has germinated. The maincrop potatoes may be lifted from this month onwards.

We should now turn our weary hands to hedge cutting. Some, such as the privet need trimming numerous times throughout the season, but for the majority once or twice a year is sufficient, cutting before the ides of the month should give the new growths time to harden before the onset of frost. This can be an onerous job and may be delegated, after clear instruction, to any under-employed youths we may discover loafing about the house.

The large-leaved evergreens, such as Laurel, should be trimmed with secateurs, not hedgecutters as these will leave ragged, torn and brown-edged leaves. Hedges have a tendency to grow as an inverted pyramid, as well they would being mostly trees in miniature, but we should be stern in trimming a hedge to always be wider at the base. When dealing with young hedges, especially those of beech, hornbeam, leylandii and thuja, it is advisable to allow them to reach the required height before taking out the tops, in the meantime we may just trim the ends of the branches to encourage them to thicken up.

The more informal types of flowering hedges which include those of berberis, pyracantha, escallonia and rose should never be trimmed too hard or they will produce few flowers. It is best just to go over them occasionally with the secateurs to remove any long or straggly growths.

And finally of course, the hoe; never left to stand idle but always on the move over borders and vegetable patch.

Content kindly volunteered by Ross Atabey from Green & Great Gardens "your local landscaping and garden specialists". For further advice contact Ross on 07941 315214 or 01435 812 153 or visit www.greenandgreatgardens.co.uk