In a Summer of Wildlife special episode, Monty Don explores the secret life of his garden from the soil organisms underfoot to the birds that soar overhead. Naturalist Simon King shows us the wildlife that depends on our gardens, we visit a small space designed as a haven for garden creatures and Carol Klein celebrates a plant family popular with bees and butterflies.
Grass snakes in compost
During filming Monty discovered some grass snake eggs buried in his compost heap. Grass snakes often lay in compost as the heat helps to incubate their eggs.
Monty quickly covered them back up as he didn’t want to disturb them but, before he did, we got a shot to show you. Aren’t they amazing?
The small, white eggs are laid in clusters in summer and can hatch anytime up until October. If you find them when turning your compost, take care not to disturb them and if you know you have grass snakes laying in your heap, you could delay turning it until autumn.
To find out more about grass snakes visit the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation website (www.arc-trust.org)
Planting flowers for bees
There are many lovely garden plants in the daisy family which add late colour to the garden and provide a great source of nectar and pollen to insects well into the autumn.
Monty plants some lovely Helenium ‘Dunkle Pracht’. As well as a wide range of other Helenium cultivars, you can also choose asters, coneflowers (Echinacea and Rudbeckia), perennial sunflowers (Helianthus × laetiflorus), North American ox-eye (Heliopsis helianthoides), tickseeds (Coreopsis lanceolata and C. verticillata) and harvest daisies (Inula ensifolia, I. hookeri and I. magnifica).
When selecting plants with insects in mind, stick to single-flowered varieties rather than frilly doubles which may not produce as much pollen and nectar or may be harder for insects to access.
Visit the RHS website for a full list of plants that have value for pollinating insects (www.rhs.org.uk)
Jobs for the weekend: Strip lower leaves off tomatoes
Tomatoes are growing and fruiting strongly now but fungal problems can emerge at this time of year and the best defence is good ventilation. Strip off the lower leaves at least up to the first truss. This will let air flow between the plants and also allow in more light to help ripen the fruits quickly.
More about growing tomatoes (www.bbc.co.uk)
Jobs for the weekend: Clear spent crops and sow new ones
Early pea and bean plants are coming to an end now so it’s time to clear them away in order to use the ground for another crop before winter. When clearing legumes, leave as much of the roots in the ground as possible because their nodules may return nitrogen to the soil. Then rake over the surface of the soil lightly and sow a fast-maturing crop like mixed salad leaves.
More about successional sowing (apps.rhs.org.uk)
Jobs for the weekend: Deadhead dahlias
To keep your dahlias flowering as vigorously and for as long as possible, you need to deadhead them often. Don’t just take the flower head off, take the flowering stem right back to a leaf node as that will encourage fresh shoots. If you’re confused about what to cut off, a new bud is always round and firm, while a spent flower is soft and conical.
For advice about growing dahlias (www.dahlias.co.uk)
|Series Editor||Liz Rumbold|