Top tips for August & September

1#

Harvesting – Early sowings of onions and potatoes may be ready to harvest now. Wait until the tops have flopped over and look faded and dry. Pick the potatoes as you need them making sure to cover with soil any that you leave for another day –otherwise the daylight will turn their skin green which is poisonous. Use a handforkto ease up the onions –don’t pull them as root damage will mean they will not store well. Put them somewhere sheltered and sunny to dry off then spend a leisurely hour or two plaiting thetops together. This is easy –start with three onions with long tops. Tie some twine approx. 1metre long to the middle one, thenplait them a little ensuring the twine stays with that same onion top. Next add another onion top to one of the strands, plait a bit then add another to the strand on the opposite side and so on. When you have added a few onions use the twine to tie all the remaining tops together then make a loop for hanging it all up. 

2#

Fortunately we are coming out of the main holiday season which coincides with the main growing season in the garden. During this time and now here are a few things you can do: 

Cut the lawn slightly closer than normal. Even if you come back to a few brown patches don’t worry. Most lawns revive with a few good soakings 

Invest in a drip feed system with a timer facility for all your potted plants and hanging baskets. 

Alternatively move all your potted plants to a shadier spot around a large bucket/tub filled with water and put a length of rope from the bucket to the towel. It will gradually drip-feed the pots but may need topping up after a week or so in hot weather 

Mulch all the beds and borders. For me mulch is an absolute necessity not just for water control but also for fertility. A mulch is a material which sits on the surface of the soil, keeping in the moisture but also as it gradually breaks down it replenishes the soil. Newspaper or flattened cardboard boxes work well but obviously do not look good! Straw or grass cuttings are a visual improvement and homemade compost is excellent. Bark mulches can look smart but also can be expensive and are not as successful in terms of soil improvement. Always give the soil a good soak then add your mulch –the thicker the better (10cm minimum) 

Don’t forget your indoor plants. Lay a towel in the bath, plug removed, and soak the towel thoroughly then add the pots. Turn on the water so there is a small drip. It will keep the towel damp enough for a two week holiday away! 

3# 

Hedges –it’s a good idea to lightly trim all your evergreen hedges now as it allows all new growth to harden off prior to the advent of frosts, reducing the risk of damage 

4# 

Lavender –August is the time to cut off the flower spikes but the timing will depend on whether you intend to keep the dried flower-heads. If you do, then cut them before they start to fade and set seed. This you will need to do carefully as the bees will still be finding them irresistible –in fact they may well be drunk on lavender nectar! The cut lengths look wonderful tied into sheaths or maybe you prefer to strip the lavender heads and make scented cushions etc with them. If you prefer you can leave the lavender spikes on the plants until later in the month giving yourself (and the bees) longer to enjoy them. To keep the lavender compact cut back into the leaves to shape the hedge but never cut into bare wood as it invariably goes into shock and dies off 

5# 

Lastly continue Dead-heading and Feeding (see July Top Tips) –this is important to keep the flowers, fruit or veg coming throughout the summer months. Some plants such as Delphiniums can be cut right down, fed well and they will often flower again before the autumn 

A special thanks to the Lady Gardener who has put August and the start of September top tips together.

THE LADY GARDENER 

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