Tips for July & August
Early flowering shrubs should be pruned as soon as possible after flowering has finished, such as Weigela and Philadelphus. Flowered stems should be removed and, in congested plants, complete stems cut out at ground level. The one in three system works well.
The mulch you put down in late winter/early spring may have broken down on your borders leaving a fertile weed bed! Now is a good time to apply another two-inch thick mulch of well rotted organic matter, such as manure or mushroom compost, on any bare soil. Provided it is put on to moist soil, it will help retain the moisture, deter annual weeds and strengthen root growth. Ensure it does not touch plant stems.
August's Fruity Tips
There is still time to thin fruit.
- Cooking apples: one every 6 inches
- Eaters: one every 4 inches
- Pears: two per bunch
- Plums: one every 3 inches
It may seem wasteful, but the fruit will grow and ripen better and the quality will be improved. It also helps to prevent trees from becoming biennial, that is, fruiting heavily one year and taking a rest the following year.
Grape vines can also be pruned: fruiting stems cut back to two leaves after a bunch of grapes, non-fruiting stems to five leaves. Only one bunch of grapes should be left per fruiting stem. The tip of each bunch can also be cut off to encourage better quality fruit.
At the end of this month, or two weeks before harvest, trained fruit trees should be given their annual pruning to reduce leaf growth and encourage ripening of fruit.
My course on Growing and Training Fruit in Small Spaces will take place when we are once more running courses.
Tips for Late Summer / Early Autumn
Start haunting the garden centres for reduced price plants.
These bargains can often be rescued to flourish again with a little tlc. If the compost is dry, place the plant in its pot into a bucket of water and leave it until the bubbles stop rising. Remove from the bucket and allow to drain. Remove all the algae growing on the surface of the compost, gently tease out roots which are circling the plant to prevent it becoming root-bound, cut off any overlong roots and plant it into well prepared ground at the same level as in the pot. Cut off any dead, damaged or diseased stems or leaves.
Sow sweet pea seeds now for an earlier display next summer.
Leggy shrubs such as Lavatera, Buddleia and climbing roses can be reduced in height by about one-third to prevent root-rock in the winter. Apart from these plants, DO NOT PRUNE ANY SHRUBS! Autumn is the time for planting, not pruning.
Congested herbaceous perennials such as hardy geraniums can be lifted, divided and replanted in the autumn. The old centre of the plant should be discarded and the remaining sections, with at least three growing shoots each, planted out into well prepared ground, allowing enough space between the plants for next season’s growth.