The combination of rather too many absences visiting other people’s gardens – and even taking the odd holiday – with the recent hot weather has meant that many of my cut-and-come-again salads have bolted. There is no point in sowing more at the moment because lettuces don’t germinate when the temperature is above 18°C. As soon as it cools down I will sow some more, as well as some large-leaved cultivated rocket (it is more tolerant of hot weather than wild rocket) and oriental salads including mizuna and red mustard. In the meantime I have bought myself some salad plugs from Organic Plants and I will be planting them in containers of GroChar compost in partial shade to ensure that they don’t go to seed too.
Once tomato plants have set four trusses of fruit pinch out the growing tip of the plant so that the energy goes into swelling the fruit.
The Productive Cutting Garden
Whether you grow annual flowers for cutting in a designated patch or in the borders, the way to ensure that they keep on delivering all summer long is to keep on picking them. If you let a flowering annual plant go to seed, as far as it is concerned, it’s job is done and it will stop sending up any more blooms. So keep a sharp eye out and be sure to remove any flowers that are past their best and put them on the compost heap rather than leave them where they are. Sweet peas are particularly quick to stop flowering and I tend to check them daily to make the flowering period last as long as possible. One of the most productive and most forgiving of cut flowers is the cosmos – dead heading doesn’t seem to be as vital and well-established plants will carry on sending up blooms well into autumn.
Once the rambling, scrambling and climbing roses have done with flowering, they send up vigorous new shoots which will bear next year’s flowers. These need to be tackled while the growth is soft and pliable and they are still easy to tie in place. Leave them too long and they will whip around, getting damaged and catching on passers-by, inflicting damage on them too. The usual rule with these roses is to cut out a third of the old growth close to the ground, cut back the side shoots on the remaining old growth to one bud from the main stem and then tie in the new stems. When you do this, train the new stems horizontally and curving downwards towards the tip. This encourages flowering shoots to form along the length of the main stem rather than just at the end. Gauntlet gloves are recommended for rose wrestling!
There seems to be a larger than normal population of cabbage white butterflies this year, so measures need to be taken if you are to avoid sharing your brassicas with chomping caterpillars. Where seed is sown in the ground it is a good idea to protect your plants with Enviromesh from the start. Enviromesh is the most effective way to keep them at bay, its fine clear mesh keeps the butterflies out but allows plenty of light to penetrate through to the plants. I start my brassicas in pots to avoid demolition by slugs and then transplant them when they are large enough to be less delicious to the slugs. Before planting them out I check the underside of the leaves for any signs of caterpillar eggs and remove any that are present. Once planted out I put a frame around the plants and cover it with Enviromesh. With any luck we won’t have to share our cabbages and kale with slugs or caterpillars this year.
When lavender flowers fade give the plants a haircut to keep them shapely and stop them becoming leggy.