'Favourite time of the year' in the garden with attractions across the board

We all have a favourite time of year in our gardens and mine is right now. The attractions that make it so are spread across the board.

Thursday, 15th August 2019, 16:00 pm
Plenty of tomatoes.

Mid-August means fruit-picking, vegetable harvesting and ornamental displays. Soft fruit crops have been good so far but rather than get totally absorbed in picking them, bear in mind that some types need action immediately after cropping to set them up for next year.

Strawberries fall into this category. As fruit production in main crop varieties starts to tail off, select any strong runners emanating from each plant and encourage them to form roots.

Don't miss out on this, the simplest of propagating opportunities. Runners (long, thin stems) with embryo plants attached to the end will take root themselves if left alone but you can speed-up the process by sinking a compost filled pot into the ground and pegging the young plant into it. Once established they can be planted into a permanent bed with first fruits next summer.

Strawberry beds ideally comprise plants no more than three years old. They start to lose vigour beyond that time, becoming more susceptible to pests and diseases.

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The system is based on removing the oldest and introducing young stock every autumn. Planting to secure one, two and three-year-old plants, is an ongoing process.

Raspberries are prolific this year and there are still more to come. Lots of large fruits were lost in last week’s downpour but two days of sunshine brought the bed back into business. Keep picking and transferring excess onto shallow trays for the freezer.

As canes bearing the summer crop run out of steam they should be removed completely, pruning to ground level. This brings tall, pale coloured young canes into focus. They will bear next year's crop so need tying into position.

Even then our raspberry cropping season continues because there are autumn fruiting varieties in the bed. They are pruned to the ground when cropping ceases, which can be as late as December. New shoots that emerged in spring are now tall, have flowers and are ready to perform.

Blackcurrants safely harvested, it's time to prune the bushes. Cut back any stems that have just borne fruit, to the junction with a young replacement.

Tomatoes, a mixture of large and small varieties in red, gold and yellow, continue to need regular watering and feeding, and the removal of some foliage.

The first lower leaves were pruned out in mid-July, and August has seen several more go.

Come September, vines with little or no foliage remaining, will carry the remainder of this year`s crop. This treatment sounds drastic but works for me. It lowers the risk of fungal disease, enhances fruit access to light and air.

The grapevine, currently dripping with fruit that should have been thinned-out, would have benefited from each bunch being reduced by one third some weeks ago, but there was no time, so extra vigilance is necessary now. Each day I`m removing individual fruits showing signs of rot. Pointed hairdressing scissors are ideal for the job.