What To Do In The Garden In August

August 1st, 2017 | News | 0 Comments

August is the perfect time to sit back, relax and enjoy all your hard work in the garden. With everything in full swing, it is an opportunity to assess how your planting schemes have worked this season and think about what to order for next year’s display – look out for Mr Fothergill’s 2018 seed catalogue, mailing soon.

Gardening tasks have a maintenance focus this month to make the most of your summer displays and produce before the busy autumn period kicks in September.

Holiday Garden Care

With schools holidays in full swing, many of us will be setting off on our summer breaks. Plans need to be put in place to ensure plants are catered for while you are away. If you can’t call on a neighbour to keep an eye on things, try these top tips to keep your garden ticking over while away:

  • Move pots and baskets into the shade.
  • Remove all flowers from summer bedding to slow down their water intake and prevent them running to seed. New buds should be in bloom by the time you return.
  • Mow the lawn but set the blades higher than normal. Longer grass copes better in dry weather.
  • Pick all ripe fruit and vegetables, storing or freezing them for use on your return.
  • Top up ponds and water features.
  • Spend some time weeding before you set off so the garden isn’t overrun on your return.
  • Water the garden heavily just before you set off, particularly pots and baskets.
  • If possible set up an automatic irrigation system for your pot plants.
  • Give prized pot plants their own holiday – if friends can’t make it your garden, ask them to take on a few of your favourite pots in their garden.

Lush lavender

Give lavender plants a light trim as flowers fade. Use shears to remove flower stalks and up to a third of foliage growth. This will keep growth compact, preventing the plants from turning woody and bare, which can be a problem with neglected plants.

Hanging baskets

Upkeep and maintenance are more important now than ever if you wish to get the longest show from your summer hanging baskets, as plants will quickly run to seed and start to fade if you let them.

  • Keep compost consistently moist by continuing to water daily (twice a day in particularly hot spells)
  • Apply a weekly liquid feed – even if you used granular fertilisers when planting, as much of this will have been used by the plants by now.
  • While you are giving baskets a soak, pinch off finished flowers to keep plants tidy and productive.


Dry flower displays – turn your summer favourites into a later winter bouquet

Dried flowers are a bit of a forgotten art form, but with the rise of grow your own cut flowers in recent years, dried winter displays are coming back in vogue, and it couldn’t be simpler to make your own.
There are thousands of flowering garden plants to choose from for dried displays and it’s actually worth experimenting with everything in your garden to find out what makes the best-dried specimens.
As with fresh cut flowers, the trick is to collect stems when still in tight bud or just when flowers are starting to open.   Pick or cut them early in the day, as soon as any dew has dried – they will be at their lowest moisture content at this time, leading to quicker drying times.

Give stems a shake after collection, this will remove any lingering water droplets as well as any insects. Keep them out of direct sunlight to prevent them wilting.

No matter how many you collect they should be tied into small bunches of 6- 12 stems, larger bunches prevent air circulation around the buds which can lead to rotting.

The bunches should then be hung upside down (this keeps the stems straight) in a warm, dry, dark shed or garage. Depending on the type of flower, the drying process should take between two and six weeks. When fully dried the flowers should feel stiff and dry.

Houseplant holiday

August temperatures are perfect for moving houseplants outside for a week or two, where they will make the most of light levels.  Increase watering as the pots will dry out quicker in the summer sun. They will also benefit from summer showers, which will help to wash away dust from the foliage.

Strawberry care

Strawberry beds and planters can look a little unkempt at this time of year, but you can turn the mess into an opportunity. As plants finish fruiting they focus on sending out runners to create new plants. As you examine your plants you may already find runners that have rooted into the soil, just below a leaf join.

If this is the case you can carefully dig these up, snip the runner on either side of the leaf section and pot on the young plant for setting back in the soil in autumn, exactly where you want it to grow.

Alternatively, you can use garden wire to pin unrooted runners to the soil to encourage them to set roots, for lifting and potting up in autumn.

Summer lawn care

Mowing– this should be done weekly through summer, but through August, the cutting height should be raised slightly to help reduce drought stress. The height can be lowered again in mid-September when the cooler wetter weather starts to arrive.

Feeding – Summer lawn feeds not only ensure lush green grass they also provide the turf with all it needs to strengthen roots ahead of winter.

Weeding – Aim to remove large weeds by hand, using a lawn weeding tool or knife to take out as much root as possible. Place a pinch of lawn seed in gaps left by their removal. Lawn weed killers can be used, but apply late in the evening when evaporation will be slower, leading to better uptake by the weeds.

Watering – browning lawns are common place at this time of year. The grass soon recovers once autumn rain arrives, so it is up to you whether you water the lawn to keep it lush. New lawns started this year, should be watered through summer dry spells.

Prep for new lawns – Autumn is an ideal time to sow lawn seed or lay new turf. To ensure trouble free lawns it pays to prep the soil now, giving the ground time to settle and weeds to emerge. Bump, hollows and unwanted weeds can then be removed shortly before sowing or turfing.

Black spot on roses

This unsightly leaf disease really shows itself in late summer. Unfortunately, it is too late in its development to control with sprays. However, you can help prevent it spreading next year, by removing infected leaves as they fall. Do not add these to compost heaps as it will only move the problem around the garden. Dispose of with household waste.

On the veg patch

August is about keeping on top of harvesting to prevent produce going over on the plants. Check crops daily.

Thin out late sown carrots but watch out for carrot fly at this time of year. Create a physical barrier at least 45cm (18in) high around the crop to keep them away. Garden canes and horticultural fleece are ideal for this. If you still have onion or garlic crops, crush some of their leaves and scatter near your carrots as an extra masking measure.

Continue to feed autumn cropping squashes, pumpkins and marrows for the largest fruits come harvest.

Water tomatoes regularly and evenly to prevent the risk of blossom end rot setting in. Black bases can occur on the fruit if plants are allowed to dry out in between watering.

Quick crops like salad leaves, rocket and radish can still be sown in the south of the country with little risk. Gardeners in the North can give it a go, but be prepared for the first frosts!

Everyone can continue to sow spring cabbages, overwintering onions, turnips and oriental cabbage leaves.

Geranium or Pelargonium? Which is correct?

August 18th, 2017 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Geranium and Pelargonium - what's in a name?

OK… Stepping into shark infested waters here. What should it be: Geranium or Pelargonium? It’s an issue that often raises tempers.

Just to confuse the issue, there are two answers.

From a botanical, point of view, it’s easy. The tender plants from South Africa that we use in containers and window boxes and seasonal summer plantings are Pelargonium. The hardy perennials, some of which are British natives, are Geranium.

But when we use geranium as a common name, we use it for both. That’s confusing and this is how it came about. It’s all the fault of our old friend Carl Linnaeus.

There are about a dozen native Geranium species, usually called cranesbills, and about three hundred around the world. But, in the early seventeenth century, what we now know as Pelargonium species were brought to Britain from South Africa. In 1732 seven different forms of Pelargonium were described by the botanist J. J. Dillenius – but he named them all as different forms of Geranium africanum. So, at that time, botanically speaking they were all grouped as Geranium.

Not long after, another botanist Joannis Burman, decided that the South African plants were sufficiently different that they required a genus of their own and the name Pelargonium was chosen.

And that would have been fine, there would have been no confusion at all, if Carl Linnaeus had not disagreed with Burman. In his classic book, Species Plantarum of 1753, Linnaeus lumped them all together under Geranium and because of this reputation and the fact that his book was so widely influential – it stuck. But it turned out to be wrong.

In 1789 a French botanist, Charles-Louis L’Heritier de Brutelle, got it right but by then the combination of the popularity of the South African plants and Linnaeus’s wide reputation meant that it was too late – the name Geranium had stuck for them all.

But what’s the difference, botanically speaking? The most obvious thing is that while in Geranium species the flowers are very evenly shaped with five petals all the same size (as above left in Geranium ‘Splish Splash’), in Pelargonium the upper two petals are smaller than the lower three (as in Pelargonium ‘Maverick Quicksilver’, above right).

So there you have it.

7 Naturally Sweet Crops to Grow in Your Vegetable Garden

August 16th, 2017 | The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Homegrown fruits and veg are incredibly satisfying, they naturally push us in the direction of a healthier, balanced diet. What about that sweet tooth – that begs you for a bar of chocolate? Well we’ve got the answer, it can come from your garden. Here are 7 crops that are naturally high in sugars.

  1. Sweetcorn – has many modern varieties that are bred for exceptional sweetness. Grow it in a sunny position in rich, fertile soil to get the very sweetest cobs.
  2. Peas – aren’t just sweet, they also benefit from being picked and eaten promptly. Look for a variety with ‘sweet’ or ‘sugar’ in the name and it’s likely to have a delicious final taste.
  3. Tomatoes – some varieties are sweeter than others, as a general rule the smaller the sweeter. Opt for cherry tomatoes if you want a sweet fix!
  4. Beets – can be enjoyed liberally doused in oil and balsamic vinegar, then slowly roasted with other sweet tasting roots such as carrots and parsnips.
  5. Carrots – like beets, smaller roots are the sweetest. Select varieties that produce pencil sized roots or try Chantenay types beloved by chefs.
  6. Strawberries – when ripe and sun-warmed are one of the most satisfying experiences any gardener can enjoy.
  7. Melon – nothing compares to the sweetness of a perfectly ripe melon. Honeydew are the sweetest varieties and cantaloupe are the most reliable.

These are the seven crops that you can enjoy when you need a sweetness rush – what is your go to sweet fruit or veg? Let us know in the comments below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter pages.

GrowVeg: 7 Naturally Sweet Crops to Grow in Your Vegetable Garden

10 Nutrient-Dense Fruits and Vegetables to Grow in Your Garden

August 8th, 2017 | The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Fresh, homegrown fruits and vegetables are packed full of nutrients which help to boost health and give us that feel-good glow. But which are the best? All crops are not created equal, and some are even better for you than others. Here we give you 10 nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables to grow in your garden. Nutrient-Dense Fruits - Raspberries

  1. Zucchini/Courgettes – good for the heart, great for weight loss and a boon for healthy eyes, teeth and bones! With plenty of nutrients, this is a delicious summery vegetable.
  2. Beans – beans, beans are good for your heart! Naturally high in protein and a great source of soluble fibre, which helps reduce cholesterol.
  3. Kiwi – kiwi fruits are crammed full of fibre, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Reducing the risk of heart disease and respiratory problems, kiwis are juicy fruits ideal for keeping you healthy.
  4. Tomatoes – tomatoes are very popular and include vitamins A, C and E, plus anti-inflammatory flavonoids and potassium. They are also chock full of lycopene which may help to prevent some cancers.
  5. Sweet Peppers – similarly to tomatoes, red and orange peppers are a great source of lycopene. Plus vitamins C and A so they are a powerful antioxidant.
  6. Broccoli – broccoli is known to contain compounds that help to inhibit cancerous cells. Folate, fibre, calcium, vitamins A and C, all of these work to improve how our bodies function and how we feel.
  7. Raspberries – raspberries are packed with nutrients including antioxidants and B vitamins. The rich red berries help to strengthen your immune system, prevent infections and improve eye health. Raspberries contain ellagic acid, a compound that may help prevent some cancers.
  8. Blueberries – blueberries contain a cocktail of essential nutrients including zinc, copper, vitamins, iron and a hearty dose of the powerful antioxidant anthocyanin. There has been a link between the daily consumption of blueberries and a slower advancement of Alzheimer’s.
  9. Garlic – garlic is great at boosting the immune system due to its high levels of vitamins such as B1 and B6, plus nutrients including manganese, calcium and tryptophan. It’s great for our livers and maintaining healthy lungs and stomach.
  10. Kale – kale is a great source of fibre, vitamin C, omega-3 and -6 fatty acid and antioxidants. It’s great for the immune system and an excellent anti-inflammatory. It’s rich source of nutrients is sure to give your skin, nails and hair a boost to get you glowing.

This is just the beginning of how these 10 fruits and vegetables can help your health. If you have any other information on these or any other fruits you can suggest, then please leave us a message in the comments below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter pages.


Tomato Problems: Fix Issues Affecting Your Tomatoes

August 8th, 2017 | The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Fixing Tomato ProblemsThere’s nothing quite like the aroma and taste of a homegrown tomato. They’re also pretty easy to grow as long as you’re prepared for signs that something is wrong. As well as pests and diseases, tomato yield and quality can be affected by nutrient deficiencies, poor pollination, irregular watering and other issues. This post looks into how pests can destroy your tomato plants and the video below is here to guide you through further tomato problems!

  • Aphids and whiteflies are regular visitors from early summer. They gather in large numbers, sucking the sap and life from your plants. Plus, they leave their stick excrement or ‘honeydew’ on the foliage! Some pests can also transmit plant diseases. Small infestations can simply be blasted off with a jet of water. or try spraying plants with a solution of soapy water, taking care to reach leaf undersides. Prevent some pests from getting to your precious tomatoes by planting flowers close by, such as marigolds.
  • Spider mite appears on tomato plants in warm, dry conditions – these can quickly weaken plants. It’s important to look out for their faint webbing, you may also be able to see the tiny, red mites if you look close enough. They love drought-stressed plants, so be sure that your tomatoes aren’t drying out. If they do attack, spray the foliage with a fine mist of water, ensuring you reach all parts of the plant, then cover the plant with a row cover for a few days to create the shady, humid conditions that repel mites.

If you have any further advice on how to fix any issues with tomato plants, then please leave us a message in the comments below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Growing the wild sweet pea

August 6th, 2017 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

The wild sweet pea, Lathyrus odoratus

This summer, I’ve been growing the wild sweet pea. Yes, this is the very hard to find, original wild species, Lathyrus odoratus, native to Sicily, and un-improved and un-messed around with. It’s proved both delightful and surprising.

The flowers are exactly as I expected. They’re small, about 4cm high, but richly coloured. The standards, the upright petals at the back, are velvety maroon while the wings, are deep violet. In general, it looks like a slightly smaller flowered version of what we now grow as ‘Cupani’ or ‘Matucana’.

Only one or two flowers are produced on each short stem but they were the first of all my spring sown sweet peas to flower, in late May, and are still going strong as I write in early August.

Then, of course, there’s the scent. I have to say that although the scent is good, it’s not as powerful as that of, say, ‘Gwendoline’ and ‘Hi Scent’ growing nearby. And I noticed that the fragrance of the flowers on some individual plants is stronger than that on others.

The stems are short, the stalks of the small leaves are also short, the leaves themselves are small and sometimes with only two leaflets, and the plants themselves are short because the internodes, the length of stem between the leaves, are also short so the whole plant is compressed. Although the well-drained soil is good, and they were watered once or twice in long dry spells, they came into flower at about 40cm high and are now only about 85cm high.

They’ve been deadheaded almost every day, which has been crucial in keeping the flowers coming, but when deadheading was missed for a few days the developing seed pods looked unusually hairy.

So, is it worth growing? Well, yes. It’s very satisfying to grow the true wild sweet pea and a short, long-flowering, scented climber in these rich colours is very useful both in the garden and in a small vase. It would also be good tumbling out of a large container. So I’m going to stop deadheading now, collect the seed and sow it in the autumn for next year.

And it’s on trial at the Mr F trial ground, so it may be in the catalogue in a year or two.