August brings greater vigilance in the garden

I can't believe the delightful Howick Village show is just two days away and that most crops are at the peak of summer growth.

Saturday, 30th July 2016, 12:30 pm
The view in Alnwick Garden shows Lady`s Bedstraw, Catmint and Foxtail Lilies.

But August is almost upon us and that means greater vigilance in watering, watching out for pest attacks, weeding and generally keeping the show that is our garden firmly on the road.

All containers need daily attention, even twice daily when temperatures soar into the upper 20s Celsius as on two occasions last week.

First is the waterin, followed by the removal of faded blooms to encourage further bud production.

As the month progresses consider stepping up the food supplement to weekly doses.

It follows that ornamental border plants, other than annuals, may become stressed through lack of water, especially herbaceous perennials carrying a heavy load of foliage and bloom. Even when a deluge comes to the rescue, don’t assume that it will have a lasting effect.

Anything growing in a summer greenhouse demands top priority when it comes to watering. Tomatoes in pots can dry out twice daily, and the main disorder arising from that is blossom end rot.

It is caused not by a shortage of calcium in the compost, but by the absence of water, which is responsible for delivering it to the developing fruits.

Simply remove any affected tomatoes, keep on top of watering, avoid great fluctuations in temperature, and the problem is resolved.

Friend Adrian was puzzled recently when the leaves on two of his tomato plants suddenly developed white blotches whilst the other plants remained healthy.

It turned out that he’d been watering them overhead on a really hot day to cool everything down, as they stood under a shaft of sunlight.

In such conditions spots of water turn into magnifying glasses, burning through plant tissue. Removing the worst affected leaves enhances the crop appearance without affecting growth.

Similarly, we’ve reached a stage where excessive leaf growth can hinder the ripening process, even encourage botrytis.

Don’t be afraid to remove several lower leaves at a point close to the main stem to encourage air flow and increase light penetration.

It is well known that container-grown plants can, in theory, be introduced to a garden at any time of year, but at the height of summer there are risks involved.

Specimen trees, shrubs and perennials especially, planted around this time, demand water to settle-in, followed by continuous monitoring thereafter until you’re sure they’ve become established.

First check to see if the plant is pot-bound and if so, tease the roots apart before planting. Then water the hole, even before it receives the root-ball, and again when half the back-filling has occurred.