The Sunday Gardener's Blog

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  1. The weather forecast is offering a reprieve  from the rainy conditions with some warm sunny days, ideal for relaxing in the garden. Heavy rain takes its toll on a garden, battering the flowers and flattening everything. Here are some ideas for the bank holiday weekend and gardening tips for August.

    A clear up will help the garden pick up and encourage perennials to keep blooming. Dead head everything which has spent or weather damages flowers especially Roses, Geraniums, Sweet Peas and other annuals, trimming back Nepeta, Achillea Mollis and other tired looking perennials. Whilst many perennials will not flower again, they will grow new foliage which will be bright and cheerful.

    This would be a good time to feed the garden to keep the flowers going into autumn.

    This weekend I will be pruning the Wisteria, its a bit later than is ideal, but still in time. As a guide below are before and after images and there is additional information about  How to Summer Prune Wisteria and video.

     

    wisteria before summer pruning

     

    wisteria after summer prune

     

    Another result of all the wet and windy weather is that some plants have been flattered and suffered damage.

    Don't compost prunings they make great free natural looking plant stakes and are often the perfect shape for propping up plants. 

    Re stake plants using this years prunings. Although many of the perennials look a bit battered, we have still some summer to go and September is often mild and warm, so plenty of flowering still to come.

     

    Plant-stakes-for-free 310

     

    tired bedding plants

     

    A lot of rain and windy weather batters hanging baskets and annuals. The basket on the left was looking lovely last week!

    It maybe possible to salvage the basket by deadheading extensively, removing everything which has flowered or been damaged by the rain and then feeding. However, because bedding plants tend to be less robust and are getting towards the end of their flowering season, some bbaskets will be too far gone and will only limp along. In which case consider replacing them.

     

     

    Great Autumn offers from Crocus with a selection of winter Viola and Pansey for delivery w/c 2nd Sept 

    Illustrated below left is Pansy Coastal sunrise mix and right is Viola Sorbet Yellow which are just some of the Panseys on offer and at a great price of £19.99 for 40+ 20 free for a stunning autumn and winter display.

    Click here for more information.

     

     

    Pansy Coastal Sunrise Mixed

     

    Viola Sorbet yellow Blue Jump up

       

     

     

    Dry weather also gives an oppotunity to lift up Onions and Garlic to dry ready for storage.

    To be on the safe side after a couple of days on the ground drying out I usually bring into the greenhouse to rest on the slats for a few days. If you have no greenhouse you can store in a string net in a dry place such as a warm garden shed or conservatory. 

     Info growing and storing onions and garlic

     

     

     

    onions-drying-in-greenhouse-close-up-

    Finally, this is a good time to take stock of the garden, what worked and what didn't look as good as you hoped. Some perennials are short lived and may need replacing. Most of my garden is herbaceous and so if I leave it to the spring to consider what changes to make there will be little or nothing to see . Photos now of the garden are really useful to mull over in the winter and work out changes for next year.

     

     

  2. seedhead- viola seeds

     

    How To Save Seed

    Autumn is the best time for saving seed.  Some plants, especially annuls start shedding seed quite early in the yar around August and seed is evident on plants throughout autumn.

    The basic method of saving seed is to look for a ripe seed pod and cut it from the plant bringing inside in the warm to dry. Whilst some seeds have very specific germination requirements, there are also many seeds which are easy to save and germinate, and make a saving on the cost of seed the following year. This is particularly so if you are successively sowing, such as Rocket, even though seed is relatively cheap to buy, several packets still add up and helpfully Rocket is one of the easiest seeds to save. 

    At the end of the season leave a few stems of peas and beans for the pods to form and dry out. If the weather is wet or frost threatens, cut down the stem and bring indoors to dry. It is most important that seed is dry when stored as damp seed will quickly go moldy and be unusable. That said I did leave a bunch of rocket I had picked in the greenhouse over winter, and shaking out the seed in the spring it was good to use. Once dry the seed can be stored but it is best to sort the chaff out and store just the clean seed. 

     

    Gathering and saving Tomatoes seeds is different.  To save tomato seed you need to pick a ripe fruit, scoop out pulp with the seeds and put in jar of water. Swill it around for couple of day and the seed will separate from the pulp and then you can fish the seed out and dry for storage. Many tomatoes plants sold are F1 hybrids and these are not suitable for seed saving.

     

    Easy Seeds to Save and Grow

    Rocket is great; other easy seeds to save and germinate are Lettuce, Tomatoes, all of the Pea and Bean family, many annuals such as Cornflowers, Nasturtium, Poppy Seeds, Morning Glory, Marigold, Calendula,  Nigella, and Sweet Peas.

    How to Clean and Store Seed 

    Cleaning seed is a perfect job for a winter afternoon. It's not a job to be hurried, and for the smaller seeds, tweezers are the only way to separate seed from chaff and dirt. 

    These seeds pods in the images below have been drying out in a warm, airy place for weeks until I finally got round to sorting them out.  It is important the seed is really dry before you store it. The seeds in the image left, Nigella seeds are dark brown almost black but when the seed was ripe it was green. As it dries, it has darkened and you can feel that the seed is hard and dry.

    Each seed pod needs to be opened and then the seeds removed, which is easy if it is broad beans or peas which are large seeds which come away in your hand. Smaller seeds, such as Nigella and Rocket are tiny and tweezers are really good for scraping out the pod into a seed packet. In the image on the right the assorted wild flower seeds are on the left side of the image and the husks and seed pods on the right. The seed needs to be cleaned of  pod or plant bits before storage. I keep it in the fridge over winter as the ideal environment is cool and dark.

    Unless you have a lot of time and plants, saving seed isn't going to replace buying seed in the spring and it's not ideal for all plants, but it is interesting to grow from saved seeds and it saves some money. 

    Calendula seed prepared-seed
  3. Many gardens have areas where we struggle to grow shrubs and plants because of difficult growing conditions. It may be because the area is exposed, or predominately shady, too wet or too dry. In this blog written for Thompson and Morgan, https://blog.thompson-morgan.com/tough-plants-for-tough-pl…/ I look at tough plants for tough places. There are lots of ideas for tough plants suitable for those tricky garden areas. A bonus is that all the plants and shrubs mentioned are easy to grow, so green fingers, not required.

     

    Tough plants for damp shade Hosta

     

    Tough plants for exposed areas grasses and Achillea
    Tough plants for conservatories Sedum ‘Herbstfreude’ is ideal for poor soil and dry conditions

     

  4. potting on cucumber

    Gardeners and garden magazines often refer to the need to 're pot a plant' but how do you know when to do this?

    Re pot too soon and you risk a small plant loosing itself in an overly large pot, too late and the roots are a tangled mess and the plant is pot bound.

    The first thing is to look at the underneath of the pot, carefully holding the plant in place. Can you see roots and plenty of them?

    If so slide the plant out of the pot and look. Illustrated left is a cucumber plant and you can see that there are lots of roots, filling the space and most of the compost, but not jammed in. This plant has filled up its pot, it is ready for potting on, just at the right stage before it becomes too congested.

    Given that I want to make sure the cucumber has lots of growing space I potted it on today, into a pot around 10cms (in total) larger than the existing pot so it has about 5cms depth and on each side to grow into. This is a bit generous, but cucumber are vigorous and growing strongly at this time of year. It will expand nicely into the space and hopefully soon some juicy home grown cucumbers to enjoy.