Gardening Advice for Mid-August to Mid-September

The end of summer is often a magical time bathed in golden light and sunshine.  Here’s hoping the month ahead is a lovely time, there’s certainly a lot to do to keep you busy!

It’s the perfect time to prepare and sow new lawns.  It’s important to remove all weeds, particularly perennial weeds, before you start your lawn preparation.  It’s the perfect time to evaluate your lawn and sow grass seed in any bare patches or lay turf if needed.  Make sure you have selected a seed suitable for the type of lawn you want to grow, and for the conditions present.  Store the grass seed in the freezer for a few days before sowing – the sudden change in temperature will help the seed germinate more readily.

If you have, or are planning a meadow, sow Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor) seeds into scarified patches of bare soil closely surrounding grasses now.  Yellow Rattle is semi-parasitic on grass – the Yellow Rattle weakens the grass a little, which allows other meadow flowers to establish themselves.  Other meadow flowers and seed mixes can be sown now, although on heavy clay soils it is worth delaying sowing these until spring time.

If you would like to grow more plants beneficial to bees and other pollinating insects, then now is a good time to sow single flowered forms of Calendula officinalis (Pot Marigold), Papaver rhoeas (Poppies) and Centaurea cyanus (Cornflower).

I am passionate about protecting bees and other pollinating insects; as well as being rather lovely, charming and hardworking little creatures, we are dependent on bees for the pollination of crops and livestock feed.  The economic value of honey bees and bumble bees as pollinators of commercially grown crops in the UK has been estimated at over £200 million per year.

We need to protect, look after and appreciate bees – they need nectar rich plants which are accessible through the year while they are active, so it’s worth bearing this in mind and thinking of bees and other pollinating insects when you’re choosing your plants, buying and sowing seeds.

Sow green manures like grazing rye (Secale cereal) Mustard (Sinapis alba) and Winter tares (Vicia sativa).  Ensure you do not sow Mustard, which is a brassica, before or after other brassica crops because of the increased risk of clubroot – it’s worth looking at your crop rotation plan before deciding where to sow.

If you’ve got a greenhouse, conservatory or polytunnel, you can plant potatoes now to harvest at Christmas.  You can also try growing potatoes outside if you have a warm and sheltered spot in your garden.  If you’re growing outside, I’d recommend adding lots of extra fertiliser early on to get the potatoes to grow as soon as possible, and use a cloche or protective cover to keep the leaves protected from becoming too wet, as well as protecting against frost.  Growing potatoes in pots or bags is a great idea, and very successful too.  You’re spared the hassle of having volunteer potatoes popping up the following year and you can easily move the container or bag if you need to; it’s worth noting that you always water from the top of the bag and avoid watering the potato haulms or stems.

Outside: sow endive, lettuce, Japanese onions, winter hardy spring onions, peas, pak choi, radish, spinach, turnip, and winter radish.

Plant shallots, kale, and winter cabbages.

Summer prune fruit, feed with seaweed fertiliser.

Trim box and topiary plants now, use the prunings to take cuttings, a heated propagator will speed up the rooting process.  Trim native deciduous hedges once the risk of disturbing nesting birds has passed.

Plant, Cyclamen, Daffodils and Narcissus, Erythronium, Lily, Nerine, Scilla, Trillium, Autumn Crocus and Meadow Saffron (Colchicum autumnale).

It’s the ideal time to plan ahead for winter.  If you’d like to have pots and containers filled with colour all winter and spring, then now is the time to think about sowing winter pansies and violas.

Prune rambler roses after they have finished flowering, remove the old stems at the base of the plant and reduce the new shoots by a third to encourage new side-shoots to form and produce more flowers for next year.

Take semi-hardwood cuttings of Berberis thunbergii, Pyracantha, Honeysuckle, Rosemary, Lavender, Viburnum opulus and Ceanothus now.

Take root cuttings of eryngiums and oriental poppies.

Dry and store herbs.

Collect ripening seed.

I hope you get time to soak up this lovely time of year and enjoy the month ahead in your garden.

This article was first published in the mid-August 2013 edition of The Surrey and Hants News.

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