With so many of us off on holiday at this time of the year, many gardens are left to fend for themselves for a week or so.
If you are preparing to jet off to the sun, do try to spend a few hours in the garden before you pack the passport and traveller’s cheques.
Give the grass one last cut, but do not be tempted to cut too low.
If we are to have a long dry spell, the grass will benefit from being that bit longer – try to leave over 3cm by raising your mower blades.
If you have planted a vegetable patch this season, harvest as much as you can, leaving as little as possible. Your vegetable plants will keep on producing new, fresh produce in your absence , so as long as a neighbour or friend has been enlisted for watering duties, you should be able to look forward to a decent crop on your return.
Get the secateurs out for a good deadheading session, paying particular attention to lavenders, santolina and all the herbs. These plants will appreciate a neat trim at this time of the year ; a few moments clipping now will reward you with fresh new growth and another wave of flowers well into the Autumn.
Take a look at your herbaceous perennials , and cut back any that have begun to look a little tired.
Hardy Geraniums, Achilleas, Phlox, Delphiniums and Lupins will all really benefit from a vigorous clip back.
Take a look at your hanging baskets and planted containers – if you haven’t got the assistance of a neighbour for watering, this is when the specialist container compost with added water retaining gel comes into its own.
Again, get deadheading – Fuchsias, Geraniums, Verbenas and all of the trailing plants should be dealt with . If you really have no-one to help with watering it is a good idea to take your hanging baskets down from their brackets and place them in a shallow washing up bowl filled with a very weak tomato feed solution.
Your baskets will be fed and watered whilst you rest in a deckchair, and like you, should be rested and bursting with energy on your return.
If you are staying at home this month, then why not try your hand taking cuttings ? This is a great way of propagating new plants for no or very little cost.
Lavenders , tender perennials – particularly Fuchsias and Geraniums are easy plants to start with.
Simply choose healthy looking non flowering shoots and with a clean, sharp gardening knife nip off around 8cm from the tip. Pop the cutting into some Rooting Powder, then plant into some gritty seed and cutting compost – I find a John Innes mix to be preferable.
Give the cuttings a good soak, then leave in either a cold frame or simply on a kitchen windowsill.
Within a few weeks these cuttings will root, and you will be able to pot them up individually into 7cm pots. Over-winter them in a cool greenhouse, and plant them out in the Spring – there you have it, plants for free!
Another way of stocking your garden on a budget is to collect the seed from your own herbaceous perennials. The great thing about using your own seed, is that it is obviously much fresher than any you buy at a garden centre or nursery, and therefore you chances of success are much higher.
So, instead of deadheading these plants, let them go to seed, and as soon as the seed pods dry simply snip them off and place the heads into a plastic bag.
Sow the seed straight away, again into a well watered John Innes seed compost and place on that crowded windowsill.
Again, you will be rewarded with strong seedlings within a few weeks – simply follow the procedure for cuttings and your plant buying budget for next Spring is reduced again!