A light of harvest hope after the long, hot heatwave
With garden designer, Sally Cunis
For the first time in many years most gardeners are probably hoping that we don’t have an Indian summer.
We have enjoyed or endured (however you want to look at it) extremes of heat since early summer and gardeners and farmers alike have struggled to deal with high temperatures and the lack of rainfall. As a result, in the future, most of us will be taking measures to install more water saving devices, perhaps mulch better and also to plant material more appropriate to changing weather conditions.
Potted plants on the terrace have benefited from a daily soaking of grey water from the kitchen and, water butts, using the run-off from the greenhouse roof and elsewhere, have been an invaluable source of water.
Despite the drought, the consistently high temperatures have produced bumper yields in the kitchen garden.
Beans drip from pyramids, fruit trees are weighed down with plums, apples and pears and, in the greenhouse, tomatoes and peppers have and continue to be fantastic. Keep picking, feeding and watering to ensure a steady supply. Luscious blackberries have been ripe since late July; use them to make hedgerow jelly combined with elderberries, wild rose hips, haws and crab apples.
This year, roses were magnificent although the heat finished them off prematurely. By deadheading and feeding them, a second flush of roses has appeared on the bushes.
As ever at this time of year, keep feeding hanging baskets and pots of annuals, deadheading on a regular basis to extend the flowering season up until the first frosts. I like to place Pelargoniums in clay pots up the stone steps of our barn in summer; this year I chose bright corals, fuchsia and pink. They loved the heat and, with regular feeding and watering, they have been glorious!
The time now, however, has come to start thinking about the great garden tidy up, of getting rid of unwanted debris from the garden, perhaps filling a few gaps in the border with jewel bright tall perennials and of considering what bulbs to plant for next year.
A rainbow assortment of ornamental bulbs are now flooding the nurseries and are also available at local shows.
For the kitchen garden, chose bulbs of onion, spring onion and shallot planting them now along with a variety of winter vegetables once the ground has been cleared of summer crops and thoroughly prepared. Remember to cover less resilient crops such as peas and broad beans with fleece perhaps stretched over hoops if bad weather is imminent.