Wednesday, 10 September 2014



The summer fruit, flowers and vegetables have all had a great time, but autumn is not too far away so now is a great time to get the garden totally cleaned up before the leaves start to fall. Some weeds such as groundsel and pennycress keep germinating well into autumn so take the chance of any dry days to remove them. There is still time to tackle any perennial weeds with a glyphosate weedkiller, but it needs plenty of leaves to absorb the chemical so it can translocate it down into the root system. This chemical needs a couple of dry days to work. It is not taken in by the roots as the chemical is deactivated by contact with the soil. Some serious weeds such as mares tail will need a repeat dose after a couple of weeks.
Most summer fruiting strawberries are well past fruiting so the foliage can be cut back and removed together with any straw laid between the rows. This can all be composted, though some of the straw is perfect for placing under pumpkin fruits. As these grow larger it is good to keep them off the bare soil to keep the skins clean.

On the allotment make sure any rows of fruit or vegetables such as cabbage, sprouts, swedes and autumn salads are kept weed free, but other areas where crops are finished can be left as weeds can be dug in during the late autumn digging.
Blackcurrants, redcurrants, saskatoons and gooseberries as well as summer fruiting raspberries have all finished fruiting so pruning can be done at any time. It is not necessary to wait till winter when all the leaves are off though this does make it easier.
If you have access to a shredder the prunings can all be shredded and added to the compost heap.
Gladioli, early flowering chrysanthemums and sweet peas grown for cut flower can be cut as they flower. Sweet peas benefit from flower removal to encourage more to grow.
Other summer flowers such as geraniums, roses, cosmos and poppies will continue to flower as long as you remove any seed heads as soon as the flowers fade.

Grow a green manure crop to increase soil fertility.
Many summer crops such as courgettes, peas, beans, potatoes, onions, brassicas, sweet corn and salads are now finished so there is time to sow a green manure crop to get some growth before winter. These can be dug in during winter or some such as tares can be left till early spring then dug in. Green manure crops have strong root systems that help to break up the soil creating a fine crumb structure to improve drainage and once they break down they add a lot of humous to the soil. Many types such as the clovers have nitrogen fixing nodules on the roots which absorb atmospheric nitrogen and fix it onto their roots. This is released on breakdown as a nitrogenous fertiliser to improve the next crop.
Tidy up herbaceous border
Delphiniums, oriental poppies, flag iris and many other plants have now all finished flowering so foliage can be cut back and tidied up. Remove any supports, canes and strings and any weeds previously hidden by the foliage.

Plant of the week

Hydrangeas are an easy popular deciduous shrub flowering in mid summer. They can grow quite large in time but different species can vary and the climbing hydrangeas can be quite rampant. The blue flowered types prefer an acid soil and the pink and red ones prefer soil with a higher pH. To intensify the blue coloured flowers you can use a blue colorant chemical containing aluminium sulphate.
Pruning to remove dead flower heads is normally all that is needed, other than removal of straggly shoots. Propagate by taking cuttings of non flowering shoots in summer and autumn.


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