“…sit back, relax and enjoy the fruits of your efforts earlier in the year” This was the advice provided by a gardening book I skimmed through recently, when describing the essential tasks for the month of August. I am not sure where this author gardens, but out here in the real world there is still much to do.
After a poor start, the summer has turned out beautifully, with gorgeous sunny days welcomed by holiday makers but adding to the workload of the gardener. We are growing a fair amount of bedding this year, plenty of vegetables and have recently sowed a new lawn. We have also created a few new planting areas despite not yet having the existing beds up to scratch. All of these demand watering, so every other morning, before the day gets too warm, I start up the pump and provide the plants with the moisture they need. The well is deep and the water pure and rather cool. I have noticed many allotment holders fill up tanks from their wells to allow the temperature to rise a little before applying it to their plants. Of course, watering in the evening might be a better solution, but our life-style does not suit it. The plants might also be happier with watering every day, but that I am not prepared to do.
Weeding is an endless job here. This is a garden suffering from perhaps twenty years of neglect, so Bindweed smothers the new ornamentals if you turn your back to two minutes and after I have weeded an area it returns almost as strongly within the week. I find Bindweed very handy for tying up tomato plants and climbers but it is a constant battle to keep it down. Weed seedlings are an additional problem, but easier to control provided the job is done regularly. Most of the worst of the nettles and brambles have been dug out and destroyed but it pays to be vigilant. I have to say I quite enjoy weeding – it gets you out amongst the plants and there are always new surprises and delights hiding in the undergrowth! The work is satisfying too: you can look back at what you have achieved in the previous hour and clearly see that progress has been made. I like to flit about, tackling the worst patches or the areas where something attractive is just starting to flower. I flit – but I’m thorough with it, trying to ensure I remove all the weeds while at the same time tidying the ornamentals.
Talking of tidying, there is plenty of pruning to be done now; deadheading certainly, but also major replacement pruning of shrubs like Philadelphus. Our rambling Roses are in need of a serious amount of work, the Lavender hedges should have been trimmed a while ago and some of the herbaceous plants will have old flowering stems removed in due course.
It’s a great time of the year for cuttings and while Caryopteris and some Salvias have already been removed, newly rooted from the propagator, others are going in almost daily. At the moment there is a batch of Kiwi (Actinidia) cuttings, harvested from an overgrown plant belonging to a neighbour, a nice variegated Datura and a pretty little Salvia from the local park. Pushing my luck a bit, I am trying a few Magnolia stellata as give-aways for friends.
I have asked one of the characters I meet regularly when dog walking if I can have a few cuttings from his garden. He has a particularly fine red Lagerstroemia we have our eyes on, a hedge of those tricolor willows with the Japanese name which escapes me for the moment and an orange variety of Campsis, all of which are worth a try. We will perhaps wait until we return from our holiday in September before taking “security cuttings” – cuttings of plants which may or may not survive the winter when left out of doors. Salvias, again, are a good example, but there are many more and it is important to get these nicely rooted before the cold weather comes around again.
It is important to sit back and relax, and especially important to take time to enjoy your garden and the individual plants which make it up, but gardening, actually getting out and getting your hands dirty, is for me and many other simple souls, what it is all about. I shall continue to potter happily throughout the year and delight in doing so.