Melanie Dool’s gardening column in association with Orchardstown Garden Centre
FOR the next four weeks at least, the garden usually looks after itself and you can relax more.
Even the grass has slowed down despite the sudden downpours but at least it has stayed reasonably green and for most other plants there has been enough moisture for all the established plants to continue growing.
Although there is always work that can be done, there is no pressure and therefore, a more easy-going approach can be adopted when out in your garden. The urgency is gone and there is a spill over in what can be done in the next month or two to enable you to get the best out of your plants, before the temperature and light levels drop too much and growth stops altogether.
The things to do are generally light and undemanding and, with a few exceptions, they can wait for a number of weeks into September if necessary.
One of the most accommodating and undemanding groups of plants are shrubs, the vast majority of which will grow year after year with little or no attention. For those of you with a lot of space the shrubs can be let grow into large tree size specimens but, if you need to keep them into a shape that suits your position then a certain amount of pruning is needed and the best time to do this is after flowering. All the spring flowering shrubs can still be pruned now and those that are in full bloom should be left alone until the winter where they can be given a light trim if necessary to tidy up and then a bigger prune just before growth starts in the spring.
Wind and rain will spoil flowers for a while but, you can speed up the recovery time by trimming off the dead and damaged bits and follow up with a feed, which will ensure that the plants continue to flower well into the autumn. Do remove any dead or fading plants and infill with long lasting flowers such as begonias and you can have some good colour until the frosts arrive.
The harvesting of fruit starts with strawberries and continues until the autumn with some of the tree fruits such as apples and pears. Some years will bring a bumper crop while others will just miss out and have nothing to show for it but that is the joy or otherwise of gardening. Blackbirds can start to have a likening for your fruit so you may have to trim your tree into a neat shape and then cover it up with netting until harvesting is over. We were trouble free in this regard for decades and then within one season a generation of birds discovered our ripening fruit and it has continued ever since.
Harvesting of your crops should be continuous and water and feed as you feel it is necessary, all depending on current weather conditions but, inside crops which is under your control, will need constant attention. You can sow and plant some quick maturing crops inside a tunnel but outdoor sowing has stopped except for the cabbage ‘Winter Jewel’ which will mature in spring, and young quick maturing spring onions, rocket radish and salads.
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Hedge trimming traditionally starts again around now and continues until the middle of September and it gives the cut ends time to heal and perhaps even allow some new growth to ripen before winter. Try and keep your hedges within bounds and not allow it to get out of control, otherwise it will in time become an expensive task to get them back into shape or have removed.
You should begin to see the spring flowering bulbs appearing in the shops from now on. It always appears too early as it is still summer but if you want some early spring flowers then pick up some and leave in a visible place so you will get to plant them when you have some spare time.