If the sun keeps shining, we should be in for a few more months of colour, as Ann Winwood reports.
Hopefully we’ll get a nice spell of weather towards the end of August and into September, prolonging the flowering season of summer bedding and perennials. There are now several new varieties of foxgloves, delphiniums and lupins, as well as the newer ranges of perennial salvia, echinacea and the many older favourites such as verbena bonanariensis which make a cost-effective alternative to summer bedding.
The end of summer…
Summer baskets and tubs should still be in their prime through September and possibly into October if we don’t get any early frosts, but as the nights draw in and the weather gets cooler, they’ll begin to fade. Before we get any cold nights, decide if you’re going to overwinter any of your plants.
Geraniums and fuchsias can be trimmed back and potted up for the winter. Make sure they are placed somewhere frost free – try a spare bedroom, utility room, conservatory or garage that has some heat in the winter.
Begonia corms and dahlia tubers can be dried off and again stored in a frost free environment – wrap in newspaper or dry peat, and dust with sulphur powder before storing.
Getting ready for winter colour
Why not re-plant your empty baskets or tubs for winter colour; there are plenty to choose from – pansies, violas including the new trailing ‘teardrop’ variety, polyanthus, heathers, ivies and don’t forget to add a few spring flowering bulbs for added colour. Over recent years, garden centres have started to sell smaller shrubs suitable for tubs and baskets which can then be planted out in the garden next spring. These include gaultherias, lecothoe, skimmias and grasses.
Once you’ve cleared the borders of summer bedding, you can replant with winter pansies, violas, sweet williams and wallflowers.
September and October are ideal months for aerating the lawn, after which you can apply a lawn enricher to nourish your lawn through the winter months. Reseed or re-turf any bare patches. Watch out for the larvae of the daddy-long-legs (crane fly) which can become apparent in lawns during August and September; they will attack most soils but favour damp soils and heavy clays.
Harvest onions and potatoes now – lift up onions and allow to dry out where they’ve been growing if the weather is fine, before storing. Potatoes should be stored in a cool but frost free environment. Hessian sacks available from garden centres are ideal for this purpose. Continue to pick runner beans and courgettes on a regular basis, so that they don’t become stringy. Pick any tomatoes before the first frosts and ripen on the windowsill or use for green chutney. We’ll soon be getting our overwintering onions, shallots and broad beans in stock; plant them as soon as you can and you’ll get an early maturing crop next year.
Pick early apples and pears as they become ripe. Eat earlier varieties straight away, storing later ripening ones for later use. Cover autumn fruiting raspberries against birds. The old fruiting canes can be pruned out during the winter months as the autumn varieties fruit on new season’s growth each year.
Dead head roses, trimming back any very long growths. Remove any foliage with rust or blackspot, making sure you dispose of it rather than putting on the compost heap. Remember to clean up any debris under rose bushes as blackspot will overwinter, ready to re-infect bushes next year.
Clean out greenhouses before putting in overwintering plants, and insulate with bubble wrap. Check heaters are ready for the first frosts. As you bring in plants to over winter, watch out for vine weevil larvae, especially on fuchsias. If you see signs of them, drench the compost with one of the chemicals available for their control.
Bulbs for Christmas and spring
Buy prepared hyacinth bulbs for Christmas flowering and plant them in bowls with bulb compost by mid-September. Give them a drink and put in a cool, dark place, bringing gradually into the light and warmth once the shoots are approx 3cm high.
When planting bulbs in containers for flowering next spring, it’s worth planting at least two layers of bulbs, slightly staggered one above the other. This will ensure a spectacular display. Plant the bulbs deeply enough to allow you to plant winter and spring bedding, such as winter pansies, primroses, violas, bellis, heathers and wallflowers on top.
Gardening tips are provided by Ann Winwood of Lealans Garden Centre, Shipley.