Gardening Jobs For Late Summer
Late summer is a really important time in the garden if you are going to keep things going for the next two or three months. It’s also a time to tackle certain tasks which prepare plants for next season, left unattended you might not get the best out of them.
If you have had some rain since midsummer the garden will have started to come back to life and may not be looking quite as dull and parched as it was. If it’s looking particularly dull, then it might be a good time to think about planting for the season.
Why not treat yourself to a hydrangea or two? Enjoy them in pots for the rest of summer and then plant them out in autumn or winter. There are lots of varieties to choose from and now is the time to find them in garden centres and nurseries.
Here are my top ten tasks for this time of year:
1. Now is the time to summer prune your apple trees.
Many say that pruning now is more important than winter pruning; certainly it's a pleasanter task. It also allows more sun to get to the developing and ripening fruit.
Basically you cut back those long soft shoots that have grown during summer. Cut to just above a leaf around three leaves (or nodes) above where it has grown from last year's wood.
2. Prune summer flowering shrubs.
If you haven’t already done it cut out some of the flowered stems from deutzias and the later blooming philadelphus. By now the new shoots are growing straight and strong and the branched stems carrying the remains of this year’s blooms are even more conspicuous.
You don’t have to remove them all, but cutting some out will help to keep the shrubs open and airy, ready to look their best in the coming year.
3. It is a great time to think about crown thinning trees,
Even if the weather has been dry tree put on a lot of growth and the canopy becomes heavier. I find that the branches on birched get lower and hide their attractive frame if I don’t do a little thinning at this time. Cut out some of the thin, crossing branches to take some weight out of the canopy.
This helps to let more light and rainfall through and increases the transparency. If you cut birches while in leaf they do not bleed (ooze sap). You should also prune cherries now before the leaves fall; never cut in winter.
4. As the flowers of lavender fade cut them back
to just below the flower stalks. This gives enough time for silver-grey new growth to develop which should stay looking good all winter. If you have enough lavender leave a plant or two uncut; finches take the seeds in fall and winter.
5. Prune wisteria.
Shorten back the long, straggling shoots to about six leaves as much as possible. In reality you can do this anytime over the next couple of months, although the text books tell you to tackle it in midsummer. Ideally you will do it again in midwinter and that job is certainly a lot easier if you’ve done it now.
6. Dead head and feed to reboot the seasonal bedding plants.
These can become very tired at this time of year, especially if pots get dry and the growing medium runs out of nutrients. Also faded flower heads start to produce seeds and this can inhibit further flowering.
A little attention now could keep those seasonal bedding plants blooming for another three months if frost stays away until late in the year.
7. Feeding and water climbing beans.
Climbing beans may only just have started to produce pods but the season can be short if you don’t water them regularly and apply a liquid fertiliser if your soil is well-drained.
Beans may be self-fertile, but they set a better crop when bees are around. Healthy beans producing lots of blooms attract more bees: you get more beans. If beans dry out the young pods soon shrivel.
8. Lift and replant bearded irises.
This can be done earlier but often the soil is too dry and you just don’t get round to it. Every few years you need to lift and divide bearded irises, replanting the young vigorous rhizomes that are the ones with leaves. Shorten the leaves with scissors and replant with the rhizomes on the soil surface.
Position them so that the sun shines on the rhizome and is not shaded by the leaves. If you can’t anchor them by the roots alone push a short cane into the ground and tie the leaves to it. Although the rhizome may be just sitting on the soil the roots soon grow down and anchor it.
9. Stop tomato plants above a truss of fruits,
if you haven't already done so. This diverts the nutrients and therefore the growth and development into the fruits rather than the new leaves. You also need to keep removing side shoots from vine tomatoes and keep feeding and watering.
This is the time when drying out results in blossom end rot; a brown patch of dead flesh on the base of the fruit that spoils its quality. I'm really bad at this, I always let my tomatoes keep growing for too long and end up with green, unripe fruits.#
10. Sow spring cabbage and winter lettuce.
You can also sow quick maturing radishes, pak choi and turnips. I never think about growing turnips but picked young and glazed with a little butter and sugar they are a delicious vegetable that's easy to grow. You can also sow fast maturing salad leaves.
I sow perpetual spinach and chard now, these can be picked young and will also stand over winter.