I imagine references to “The wettest drought” will soon be joining “The wrong sort of snow” in the national consciousness. So far we haven’t been too much bothered by the hosepipe ban although the hot week at end of May made me realise it would be quite a job to keep a sizeable garden going for more than a week or so without rain.
Not many people grow soft fruit but, if you do, you should be getting the benefit now. I do wish that strawberries and raspberries weren’t at their most prolific when I want to be away on holiday but they are a high value crop and it is a great joy to pick and eat a strawberry warmed by the sun and bursting with flavour. Raspberries are available either as Summer fruiting or Autumn fruiting varieties. The summer crop is more prolific in a short burst but the Autumn variety bear from August until November and have good sized fruit. I planted a row of autumn canes in my fruit cage but they have decided they prefer it outside in a flower border and, even without netting, the birds leave plenty for me. Raspberries are excellent for freezing. Blackcurrants are expensive and not readily available in the shops so they are a good investment. The bushes fruit best on year old wood so it is worth cutting out some of the old wood each year –or having several bushes where you cut them right down in alternate years.
August is likely to be the peak month for productivity in the vegetable garden and it is a great feeling to get what you want from a walk down the garden rather than an outing to the shops. I look forward to a good supply of runner beans, my favourite vegetable (also very good for freezing). Main crop onions will now be reaching maturity. When the foliage starts bending over, help the ripening process along by lifting the bulbs so that the roots come out of the soil and bend all the foliage over and lay it along the ground; folding the leaves of two rows towards each other in a sort of ‘V’ formation. As the foliage dies down lift the bulbs completely and spread them out in the sun; on the bench in a greenhouse keeps them dry too. August is a good time to make a plan of your vegetable patch to record what is growing where so that you can plan for rotation the next year.
In the ornamental garden, weeding, deadheading, staking tall plants or tying them in are likely to be the main activities. Many gardens begin to look a bit tired by August and it’s not difficult for gardeners to begin to feel the same. If you do you are in good company. In one of her books Katherine Swift, who used to be a gardening writer for The Times says “In August the garden begins to run out of steam, and so do I” – and she has one of the loveliest and most interesting gardens I have ever visited. One thing to do which doesn’t need a lot of effort is to walk round the garden with a notebook and record things that might be added or altered to maintain interest or, perhaps, extend the time when there is a reasonable amount of colour.
By the time the next edition of the Bulletin is delivered, the Biddenham Show will be nearly upon us (Sunday September 9th). Now is the time to look at the website for the Show schedule and do another walk round the garden to see what is likely to be at its best at the beginning of September. There are classes for flowers, fruit and veg. and it will be more fun for entrants and more interesting for visitors if there is a good number of competitors. Your efforts are likely to be just as good as anyone else’s.
The suggested garden visit for this month is 8, Great North Road, Chawston which is open on Saturday and Sunday 21st and 22nd July and is reached from the Southbound A1 between Wyboston and the Black Cat roundabout.