Colin Evans garden tips
With all signs of summer fading faster than your holiday tan, it’s time to give your garden some tender loving care. BBC Berkshire’s gardening expert reveals how to get a bumper harvest of figs and rhubarbs.
This week in my garden, I have that strange feeling of autumn in the air. My maple tree appear to think autumn has arrived. The once green foliage is turning a rather bronze shade of red.
Now, it's not unusual for maples to turn colour early, but this early makes such a difference. The blackberries and russet tinted leaves are appearing all around the Thames Valley. It looks as though hopes of an Indian summer are fast fading.
The wet and cool conditions are making it hard for plants to flourish in their usual summer splendour. Instead, they are preparing for an early autumn.
From talking to a colleague at The Royal Botanic Garden in Kew, I know that the beeches are showing signs of leaves turning from green to russet.
The lawns are getting a touch water logged. Though, there may be a few bright days on the horizon. We are now being told that September could also be a very wet month.
Oh well, we are stuck with the weather conditions and we'll have to make the most of it. At least we can get into the garden on dry days. If you want to forward plan, you can do no better than to install a barometer.
With plants we can eat becoming more popular every day, why not try growing some rhubarb? The best variety has to be "Timperley Early" which cannot be beaten for flavour.
It's easy to grow and will flourish in most soils. Especially if the ground has been well manured, bulked up with organic matter and kept on the damp side.
When preparing the soil, dig well down so that the crown can get a good hold. Most fail to grow properly when they are too close to the soil surface in heavy ground.
Get the conditions right and you will have wonderful rhubarb stems right through the growing season.
Buy the rhubarb crowns this autumn for planting straight away. In their first year, give them a little protection from winter frosts. You can do this by covering them with a large terra cotta pot or some straw.
You must now remove growing points from the tomatoes, as few top trusses will develop into harvestable fruits. Four to five trusses must now be the maximum.
If the foliage is yellow, it should be removed, especially if it is covering ripening tomatoes. Still feed and keep them watered and with a bit of luck you'll have tomatoes until the first frosts.
Now that the stems are soft, train figs against a south or south west facing wall and completely remove any outward growth. It's important to train the shrub, both in an upright central position for the main stem and a horizontal position for side growth.
A good structure anchored to the wall will mean the fruits will be better over the next few years. If you get this right, then your fig tree will last for many years. One last feed of Sulphate of Potash should be all that's required this growing season.
Hedges can be trimmed back, now that the birds have nested and the fledglings have gone. Both conifer and deciduous hedges, like Beech will benefit from a trim back, before the cooler days set in.
By doing this now you'll have the opportunity to take cuttings to make new hedges somewhere else in the garden.
Just take some healthy stems 20 centimetres long. Strip off some of the foliage from halfway down to the base then dip them in rooting hormone.
Put them into pots of multipurpose potting compost, right up to where the foliage starts. Then place them where they won't be disturbed and will stay evenly moist.
Leave there until next spring and plant on the rooted cuttings. Expect at least two thirds to have made good usable cuttings.
last updated: 30/08/2008 at 18:38
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