“The August man in thousands takes the road to watch the sea and find the sun.
September man is standing near to saddle up and lead the year
And Autumn is his bridle.”
Those words from the pen of song writer Dave Goulder always send a shiver up mi timbers.
Especially this year when the growing season was shortened by an almost non-spring of April frost and May’s cool, dull skies and rain. As a result, we seem to have reached August very quickly.
Crops have now caught up in the heat of July – as long as watering was attended to every day almost.
My climbing French beans ‘Blue Lake’ are giving pods daily as is the spinach, which I have watered diligently twice a day which prevents it running to seed.
Many have had beetroot running to seed due to the heat. Sweetcorn has, however, loved the tropical conditions and is growing well, as are grapevines which are producing lots of bunches which are now thickening nicely.
Carrots have also had to be watered. Rambling roses seem to have had a great season profusely flowering. The sweet peas are in full bloom.
Now is the time to look at bulb traders’ catalogues. Local nurseries will also have a good selection. If Christmas flowers are required then the end of August and early September is the time to pot bulbs specially prepared for Christmas (another word that sends shivers down mi timbers).
One plant I like to grow for Spring flowers (Spring now that’s a word I like) is Schizanthus. These could be seen at Temple Newsam gardens in Leeds and at the Royal Sandringham gardens, but alas no more.
The best variety is Bouquet Mixed. These are sown at the end of August and early September. They germinate easily.
After they are large enough, prick out into small pots of John Innes No 1 potting compost. They can then be over wintered in a cool but frost-free greenhouse, or even in a mild winter in a cold frame.
In cold spells I put protection over them – layers of fleece and something like an old carpet placed over the frame on cold nights. But if it gets really cold, as last winter, then I bring them into a frost-free but cool greenhouse.
Come March they can be potted up into large 10in (25.4cm) pots of John Innes No2 and flowered as cool as possible.
Once they are growing nicely the growing points should be ‘pinched out’ – stopped continuously in an attempt to prevent them flowering too early and produce a large flowering head in May. They should be shaded to keep them cool and staked with thin split canes and tied.
Now is the time to propagate shrubs with semi-ripe cuttings taken in August and September from new growth that has developed over the spring and summer and just started to harden up (but not yet turned woody).
Shrubs such as Berberis, Camellia, Ceanothus, Erica, Hebe, Viburnum and many other types can be taken from growth 2in to 3in long (5-7cm) and inserted into a mix of 50/50 multi-purpose and horticultural river sand and placed in a cold frame to root.
Peleogniums (Geraniums as they are often called) can also be propagated in a similar fashion. They will root readily at the end of August/September, as will Fuchsias. These cuttings will produce plants ready for 2022.
Continue to deadhead flowering plants. Prune all summer flowering shrubs once the blooms are finished. Keep Dahlias well tied and staked. Early flowering Chrysanthemums will be making progress now to flower in September.
I will now place potted plants in shallow trays of water before I take the road to watch the sea and, hopefully, find the sun.