Keep your garden clean

It pays to have a tidy and hygienic plot to ward off pests and diseases

Clear away dead foliage

Clear away dead foliage

After a long season, and now that you’re carrying out fewer jobs in the garden as we descend further into the colder months, you can take time out to make sure everything is spick and span. Hygiene is paramount, as many diseases and pests can be harboured on surfaces and soil really easily, so look at it as preparing for next year’s excellent displays and crops instead of being too much of a chore!

Be sure that you’re not transplanting any blight or club root-infected soil via tools or shoes, by giving them a thorough clean now.

Diseased plant material won’t do you any favours either, so clear up droopy, wet foliage, any stems and other plants that won’t last the winter and keep your planting airy and spaced.

Make the most of the last relatively warm days to give your greenhouse a good clean, too. Removing dirt and algae from the glass will let in more light and clearing up debris helps to control those pesky pests and diseases. Start early in the day so it has time to dry off before night time.

Clear out all your plants, trays and pots, then sweep or vacuum away old leaves and cobwebs. Using hot water and detergent, such as Jeyes Fluid or household cleaning products, wash down the structure and benches. Also clean the glazing inside and out and use a scraper to ease out any dirt trapped in corners or between the panes.

Plant new currants and berries

Now’s the perfect time to start a collection

Chokeberry

Chokeberry

Cheap to do and really easy to look after, next year you could be picking bounteous berries and fruit from your patio.

Currants and berries, even the common ones, such as blackberries or blackcurrants, are expensive in supermarkets, but aren’t that dear as plants from garden centres, particularly when you factor in the amount of yearly berries you can yield. So, think about indulging yourself a little and create a fruit collection to be proud of! Now’s the time to plant new bare-root bushes (you can plant potted ones too), and if you’re up for something new, below are some suggestions to break away from the norm.

Currants appreciate manure-improved, well-drained soil and like to be sited in full sun. Cranberries, however, will need to be potted in ericaceous compost and kept very moist. Chokeberries – a rather tart fruit if eaten raw but delicious when cooked in puddings and jams – grow in most soils in sun or shade. Wonderfully-scented and sweet-tasting Chilean guava is perhaps the most low-maintenance of all, needing just shelter, sun and water in dry periods – perfect.

Plant new rhubarb

And why not try a miniature variety, too?

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Rhubarb plants are such undemanding perennials, they should have a place in every garden. And what a delicious fruit they are – or should I say sweet-tasting vegetable!

In warm and moist soil, rhubarb crowns can be planted in autumn and spring in the spot you want to permanently keep them, with a helping of manure in sun or part shade. Plant so the tip of the crown is just visible above the surface of the soil. Rhubarb plants are great in large pots, too – and look like a really attractive, architectural plant in spring and summer when colourful leaves and stems grow tall. The three most commonly available varieties are the excellent traditional varierty ‘Victoria’, the early-maturing ‘Champagne’ and the even earlier ‘Timperley Early’, but why not try miniature 20cm (8in) tall variety ‘Lilibarber’ from www.lubera.co.uk, whose leaves and pencil-like stems can both be eaten? It’ll save you the usual rhubarb glut!

Existing plants, though, will need a little care to tuck them in after their growing season, and to keep them perennially healthy – they’re low maintenance but not no maintenance!

Take hibiscus cuttings

Spread the joy of this beauty in time for Christmas!

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Hardy hibiscus (Hibiscus syriacus) is one of those splendid beauties that looks for all the world exotic – just like its tender cousin see on holiday, H. rosa-sinensis – but is as happy in our British gardens as anything else. Forget roses and peonies, hibiscus is a real winner, covered in blooms in full sun from mid-summer to mid-autumn, and just minimal care will see it turn heads!

Deadhead blooms regularly, prune young plants well in spring to create the shape you want, and then established plants need only a simple trim in early spring to tidy and keep them healthy.

It’s only about now that this magnificent plant has stopped flowering, but perhaps you might want to pass on a little bit of its charm to others by taking cuttings, which will hopefully root in time for Christmas – what a superb present!

The key is to ensure the compost is lightly moist at all times, keep cuttings on a warmish windowsill and up the humidity, which is key to good rooting, by securing a clear polythene bag over the top and keeping it clear of the leaves.

Get planting!

Don’t let your space go to waste when there are lots of crops to enjoy

Whatever you do, don’t leave your plot empty over winter. There’s no need for it, as there’s plenty to be getting on with and planting out now, to continue cropping for longer. Any break in your veg planting will be a break in harvesting produce, and if you’re aiming for a year-round plot, with something to eat almost constantly, you need to keep it up and make the most of those crops that cope with the autumn and winter weather. Another great reason to continue with the planting on your plot is that it’s of huge benefit to the soil. Crops will keep the soil stable, less weedy and will prevent the washing away and leaching of nutrients during winter rains. Anything you can do to keep your soil sturdy and healthy in the relative off-season is great.

Whatever you do, don’t leave your plot empty over winter. There’s no need for it, as there’s plenty to be getting on with and planting out now, to continue cropping for longer. Any break in your veg planting will be a break in harvesting produce, and if you’re aiming for a year-round plot, with something to eat almost constantly, you need to keep it up and make the most of those crops that cope with the autumn and winter weather.

Another great reason to continue with the planting on your plot is that it’s of huge benefit to the soil. Crops will keep the soil stable, less weedy and will prevent the washing away and leaching of nutrients during winter rains.

Anything you can do to keep your soil sturdy and healthy in the relative off-season is great.

Care for fuchsias this autumn

Check to see if your plants need bringing inside

All fuchsias, even the hardy ones, will benefit from a bit of care now to help them cope with the inevitable weather onslaught of the next few months. Even if lowering temperatures are no problem for some hardier species, it’s likely that the dreaded winter wet weather will affect them, so it’s best to act now as, before you know it, the seasonal change will be apparent. It’s important to distinguish between the hardiness of your fuchsia varieties, as care is slightly different for all. Hardy fuchsias can obviously stay outside just fine over winter, albeit with a little help, while bedding fuchsias and other half-hardy varieties really need to come inside from the frost into a greenhouse. They’re usually just discarded and replaced every year, treated as annuals, but if you keep them away from the harsh weather, they’ll sail through and spring up again for you, much like pelargoniums. Fuchsias ‘Riccartonii’, ‘Genii’ and ‘Hawkshead’, for example, are all hardy, but ‘Coralle’, ‘Marinka’ and ‘Thalia’ are all tender to frosts and can’t be left out.

All fuchsias, even the hardy ones, will benefit from a bit of care now to help them cope with the inevitable weather onslaught of the next few months. Even if lowering temperatures are no problem for some hardier species, it’s likely that the dreaded winter wet weather will affect them, so it’s best to act now as, before you know it, the seasonal change will be apparent.

It’s important to distinguish between the hardiness of your fuchsia varieties, as care is slightly different for all. Hardy fuchsias can obviously stay outside just fine over winter, albeit with a little help, while bedding fuchsias and other half-hardy varieties really need to come inside from the frost into a greenhouse. They’re usually just discarded and replaced every year, treated as annuals, but if you keep them away from the harsh weather, they’ll sail through and spring up again for you, much like pelargoniums.

Fuchsias ‘Riccartonii’, ‘Genii’ and ‘Hawkshead’, for example, are all hardy, but ‘Coralle’, ‘Marinka’ and ‘Thalia’ are all tender to frosts and can’t be left out.

Build you own potted bulb lasagne

They’ll look deliciously delightful come springtime!

It’s planting season and it’s all about getting bulbs in the ground for spring – but also into pots too.  Some of these pots may sit tight and be lacklustre and bare for a few months but, in spring, blooms in every colour will burst forth as a pleasant surprise.  There’s always the joy, at six months later, discovering the different bulbs you’d planted that you’d clean forgot about! Creating a bulb ‘lasagne’ allows you to maximise the space in your containers by planting bulbs in two or more layers, so they’re all planted at the right heights and can mix well together.  For best results, use a large, deep container that has a drainage hole at the bottom, and good quality, peat-free compost. Place crocks to cover the drainage hole, then add your first layer of compost, plant the largest bulbs on the bottom layer first, then cover with compost, position the middle-sized bulbs, then more compost and finally add the smallest bulbs and cover with compost again.  Place your container in a sunny spot, where you can enjoy the flowers in spring.

It’s planting season and it’s all about getting bulbs in the ground for spring – but also into pots too.  Some of these pots may sit tight and be lacklustre and bare for a few months but, in spring, blooms in every colour will burst forth as a pleasant surprise.  There’s always the joy, at six months later, discovering the different bulbs you’d planted that you’d clean forgot about!

Creating a bulb ‘lasagne’ allows you to maximise the space in your containers by planting bulbs in two or more layers, so they’re all planted at the right heights and can mix well together.  For best results, use a large, deep container that has a drainage hole at the bottom, and good quality, peat-free compost.

Place crocks to cover the drainage hole, then add your first layer of compost, plant the largest bulbs on the bottom layer first, then cover with compost, position the middle-sized bulbs, then more compost and finally add the smallest bulbs and cover with compost again.  Place your container in a sunny spot, where you can enjoy the flowers in spring.

Take hardwood cuttings of fruit

It’s simple and successful!

Once your fruit bushes have shed their leaves, you can set about taking hardwood cuttings of stems of the current year’s growth.  These cuttings are extremely simple and almost foolproof – they’re pretty much guaranteed to root, although it can take a while, but that means you can forget about them.  Come back to them next year, from about spring, and you’ll hopefully have some well-rooted plants. Currant, mulberry or gooseberry cuttings, for example, can be planted straight into the ground, in a little dedicated spot on your plot, or you can start them in pots to plant out.  Transplant, plant out or repot your cuttings when they’ve made good progress, have firmly rooted and grown good foliage later into next year. If you’ve planted our cuttings in the ground, check on them during frosty periods, when they may have loosened from their spots – just firm them back in to make sure they can withstand the weather.  And do keep an eye on potted cuttings, too.  They’ll need lightly moist soil.  Give it a go and you’ll be impressed at how well you do.

Once your fruit bushes have shed their leaves, you can set about taking hardwood cuttings of stems of the current year’s growth.  These cuttings are extremely simple and almost foolproof – they’re pretty much guaranteed to root, although it can take a while, but that means you can forget about them.  Come back to them next year, from about spring, and you’ll hopefully have some well-rooted plants.

Currant, mulberry or gooseberry cuttings, for example, can be planted straight into the ground, in a little dedicated spot on your plot, or you can start them in pots to plant out.  Transplant, plant out or repot your cuttings when they’ve made good progress, have firmly rooted and grown good foliage later into next year.

If you’ve planted our cuttings in the ground, check on them during frosty periods, when they may have loosened from their spots – just firm them back in to make sure they can withstand the weather.  And do keep an eye on potted cuttings, too.  They’ll need lightly moist soil.  Give it a go and you’ll be impressed at how well you do.

Propagate penstemons

It’s easy and gives you new plants for free

Penstemons are one of those plants that root easily and don’t need any special attention when you’re propagating them.  If only all plants were as easy-going! The reason many people take cuttings of penstemons in late summer and autumn is mainly as an insurance policy – they’re borderline hardy, but in particularly harsh winters they can succumb to frost, or worse, lots of winter rain clogging up their roots. So if you want to carry on growing these splendid, long-flowering blooms it pays to increase your collection now, for free, instead of replacing plants in spring. Plus, if you’re tempted by some lovely penstemon plants that may still be on offer in garden centres – perhaps in the bargain bin at this stage in the year – keep them indoors in a frost-free place instead of planting them out now.  This will save them being unnecessarily exposed to dodgy weather over the next few months. As for taking cuttings, choose the freshest non-flowering shoots, cut from their tips at about 15-20cm (6-8in) long, and once potted up simply let them grow on in frost-free conditions in a cold frame or greenhouse.

Penstemons are one of those plants that root easily and don’t need any special attention when you’re propagating them.  If only all plants were as easy-going!

The reason many people take cuttings of penstemons in late summer and autumn is mainly as an insurance policy – they’re borderline hardy, but in particularly harsh winters they can succumb to frost, or worse, lots of winter rain clogging up their roots.

So if you want to carry on growing these splendid, long-flowering blooms it pays to increase your collection now, for free, instead of replacing plants in spring.

Plus, if you’re tempted by some lovely penstemon plants that may still be on offer in garden centres – perhaps in the bargain bin at this stage in the year – keep them indoors in a frost-free place instead of planting them out now.  This will save them being unnecessarily exposed to dodgy weather over the next few months.

As for taking cuttings, choose the freshest non-flowering shoots, cut from their tips at about 15-20cm (6-8in) long, and once potted up simply let them grow on in frost-free conditions in a cold frame or greenhouse.

Plant up a winter herb pot

Their aromatic stems will be a welcome treat

Why not freshen up your herb supplies, or create interest with a new culinary area that will see you through winter and beyond.  Those lovely tender herbs of summer, such as basil and coriander, will be on the wane now and can be brought indoors or sacrificed for a hardy pot of herbs to look good on the patio and serve as a handy winter larder! Go for old favourites such as evergreen rosemary, thyme and sage and semi-evergreen parsley, as their wonderfully aromatic stems and leaves will be welcome at that time of year.  Go for a large, tall pot, with plenty of room for growing plants.  The larger the pot, the less you’ll have to care for the herbs or repot them so soon.  Use a loam-based John Innes compost that’s very well-drained and improved with gravel or grit, but also, due to cold winter rain drenchings, use pot feet to keep the container off the ground.  Don’t let it dry out, though – keep watering lightly if the weather’s dry. If heavy frosts are forecast, you could wrap your pot in fleece or bubble wrap, but do make sure that you site it in full sun and shelter. If you plant up herbs now, while the weather’s still relatively warm and dry, they can have time to settle in before winter.

Why not freshen up your herb supplies, or create interest with a new culinary area that will see you through winter and beyond.  Those lovely tender herbs of summer, such as basil and coriander, will be on the wane now and can be brought indoors or sacrificed for a hardy pot of herbs to look good on the patio and serve as a handy winter larder!

Go for old favourites such as evergreen rosemary, thyme and sage and semi-evergreen parsley, as their wonderfully aromatic stems and leaves will be welcome at that time of year.  Go for a large, tall pot, with plenty of room for growing plants.  The larger the pot, the less you’ll have to care for the herbs or repot them so soon.  Use a loam-based John Innes compost that’s very well-drained and improved with gravel or grit, but also, due to cold winter rain drenchings, use pot feet to keep the container off the ground.  Don’t let it dry out, though – keep watering lightly if the weather’s dry.

If heavy frosts are forecast, you could wrap your pot in fleece or bubble wrap, but do make sure that you site it in full sun and shelter.

If you plant up herbs now, while the weather’s still relatively warm and dry, they can have time to settle in before winter.

Attack pests on vulnerable plants

Use nematodes to deal with those pesky, unwanted visitors

Autumn’s a great time to use biological pest control, as it’s when a new generation of pesky grubs is produced, ready to descend on our gardens and turn into adults next year.  Nematodes, which are more and more widely available in garden centres these days as we try to use fewer chemicals when gardening, are microscopic organisms that feed on pests and disintegrate them from the inside out.  Not a pleasant thought! But their work is undetectable to the naked eye – as are they, coming in various forms in a paste or powder, each type labelled for you to attack a different pest that may be bothering you. All you have to do is add some of the powdered pack of nematodes to a large watering can, as per the packet instructions, and water onto the affected area straight away.  Water on again with fresh water to wash it all in, and then reapply a few more times over the next few days.  A good tip is to also use nematodes in low sunlight, as they’re sensitive to it. Sadly, for plants that are already too far gone, such as container plants that have been ravaged at the roots by vine weevil so there’s none left, you’ll have to throw them away.  But for the healthy plants that are left, in about a week or two you should start to notice some nice, pest-free results.

Autumn’s a great time to use biological pest control, as it’s when a new generation of pesky grubs is produced, ready to descend on our gardens and turn into adults next year.  Nematodes, which are more and more widely available in garden centres these days as we try to use fewer chemicals when gardening, are microscopic organisms that feed on pests and disintegrate them from the inside out.  Not a pleasant thought!

But their work is undetectable to the naked eye – as are they, coming in various forms in a paste or powder, each type labelled for you to attack a different pest that may be bothering you.

All you have to do is add some of the powdered pack of nematodes to a large watering can, as per the packet instructions, and water onto the affected area straight away.  Water on again with fresh water to wash it all in, and then reapply a few more times over the next few days.  A good tip is to also use nematodes in low sunlight, as they’re sensitive to it.

Sadly, for plants that are already too far gone, such as container plants that have been ravaged at the roots by vine weevil so there’s none left, you’ll have to throw them away.  But for the healthy plants that are left, in about a week or two you should start to notice some nice, pest-free results.

Plant some strawberries

Why not give a new variety a go?

As strawberries are hardy things, they’re ideal to plant in autumn, so they can root down well in warm soil and get settled before flowering and fruiting next spring and summer.  In fact, doing it now is actually often better than planting them in spring. If you have strawberries already, it may be a case of tidying up what you’ve got, freshening up the soil, straw and foliage, and removing old plants in favour of new ones.  You may even want to get creative with your patch and try out some longer-fruiting, season spanning types.  Or why not go natural and try some alpine varieties?  They like shade, cool conditions and are attractive plants that fruit for ages.  They can be planted in borders along with your ornamentals and they’re easier to care for than cultivated ones as they need no care! You’ve probably gone for early summer-bearing fruiters before, but have your tried perpetual strawberries?  Varieties such as ‘Mara des Bois’ or ‘Aromel’ fruit from July right into autumn. To plant, keep the soil free from weeds, well-worked and lightly acidic for best results, and dig in a good helping of compost or manure and a sprinkle of Growmore.  As strawberries need really well-draining soil, consider planting them in a raised bed.

As strawberries are hardy things, they’re ideal to plant in autumn, so they can root down well in warm soil and get settled before flowering and fruiting next spring and summer.  In fact, doing it now is actually often better than planting them in spring.

If you have strawberries already, it may be a case of tidying up what you’ve got, freshening up the soil, straw and foliage, and removing old plants in favour of new ones.  You may even want to get creative with your patch and try out some longer-fruiting, season spanning types.  Or why not go natural and try some alpine varieties?  They like shade, cool conditions and are attractive plants that fruit for ages.  They can be planted in borders along with your ornamentals and they’re easier to care for than cultivated ones as they need no care!

You’ve probably gone for early summer-bearing fruiters before, but have your tried perpetual strawberries?  Varieties such as ‘Mara des Bois’ or ‘Aromel’ fruit from July right into autumn.

To plant, keep the soil free from weeds, well-worked and lightly acidic for best results, and dig in a good helping of compost or manure and a sprinkle of Growmore.  As strawberries need really well-draining soil, consider planting them in a raised bed.

Plant bulbs in your lawn

They’ll create a delightful display for you to enjoy in spring

Naturalising little flowering bulbs in your lawn is a fantastic project for autumn.  Although its obviously a man-made process, you can create a wonderfully natural look, as though Mother Nature did it all herself! There are a few things to get right to maximise your lawn display.  Firstly, choose only one or two types and varieties – too much of a good thing with hotchpotch colours and sizes can look odd.  Secondly, for a subtler look, pick low-growing bulbs. If you select earlier-flowering bulbs they’llhave bloomed and gone over before you start to mow the lawn next spring.  That said, these days mowing seems to go on later and later and start earlier and earlier every year, so ultimately you can choose what you like – just keep your mowing schedules in mind. Either scatter a handful of bulbs as a freehand method to work out where to plant, or randomly place anywhere.  Then dig to plant.  A bulb planter is a great tool for this job, picking out sections of lawn easily for you to pop some bulbs in, before you replace the tops and water in well.  This is good for taller, larger bulbs, but you can also slice out a section of top turf with a spade, before placing little bulbs in an even pattern on top and then replacing the turf slice.  Always firm in turf so it’s flush again with the lawn surface, and water well afterwards.

Naturalising little flowering bulbs in your lawn is a fantastic project for autumn.  Although its obviously a man-made process, you can create a wonderfully natural look, as though Mother Nature did it all herself!

There are a few things to get right to maximise your lawn display.  Firstly, choose only one or two types and varieties – too much of a good thing with hotchpotch colours and sizes can look odd.  Secondly, for a subtler look, pick low-growing bulbs.

If you select earlier-flowering bulbs they’llhave bloomed and gone over before you start to mow the lawn next spring.  That said, these days mowing seems to go on later and later and start earlier and earlier every year, so ultimately you can choose what you like – just keep your mowing schedules in mind.

Either scatter a handful of bulbs as a freehand method to work out where to plant, or randomly place anywhere.  Then dig to plant.  A bulb planter is a great tool for this job, picking out sections of lawn easily for you to pop some bulbs in, before you replace the tops and water in well.  This is good for taller, larger bulbs, but you can also slice out a section of top turf with a spade, before placing little bulbs in an even pattern on top and then replacing the turf slice.  Always firm in turf so it’s flush again with the lawn surface, and water well afterwards.

Care for your veg patch

Give it some TLC now to get it in tip-top condition

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The main growing season is coming to an end and you may have some spare ground with well-worked, well-used soil.  But that doesn’t mean it has to languish unused and untended.

In fact, now’s a great time to prepare and maintain the soil in your plot so that it continues to remain healthy over autumn and winter, before you fully start again in spring.

Leaving it will lead to any nutrients it has leaching out, eroding in wind and winter rain and becoming really weedy.  Adding nothing to it in terms of organic matter won’t help your future crops – over the next month or two it’s a good idea to replace what has been taken out of it over the spring and summer.

Leaving your soil bare is also detrimental to your plot.  Weeds will take hold and there will be nothing to stabilise it.  And what’s the use of a bare patch?  There are plenty of crops to sow and plant now for a fruitful plot, such as broccoli, radishes, salad and onions.

 

Add colour with Cyclamen hederifolium

The hardy varieties will brighten up your displays

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As the nights draw in and autumn creeps up on us, it can be a bit of a down time as you wonder quite where the summer has gone already.  Autumn has its own charms, but you may be wanting to cheer yourself and your garden up a bit as some of the bright colours tone themselves down to russets and bronzes.  An injection of pink will do just the job, particularly in tucked-away shady spots, such as under trees, hedges and in between post-flowering shrubs.

Potted, autumn-flowering Cyclamen hederifolium are all over the shops right now and are perfect for slotting in gaps.  Be sure to pick up the hardy varieties with smaller flowers, and not C. persicum, which are bigger and blowsy but better off indoors.  Later in autumn you’ll see lovely winter C. coum, to plant, too.  Plant potted plants just level with the soil, and if you’re planting corms themselves, plant them 5cm (2in) below the soil surface.  Unless you’re putting them in pots, when you can grow them closer together, plant them about 20cm (8in) apart and dig in a little compost or leaf mould for good measure.

Sow hardy, tasty Japanese onions

Plant them now for a summer crunch to savour next year

If you see ‘Japanese onions’ on seed packets or a bag of sets, you know you’ve got some tough cookies.  First bred in Japan, they’re hardy and resilient overwintering varieties that will grow outside uncovered over the next few months, then provide you with lots of large, crisp bulbs at the end of next spring.  They need less light that other onions, so will grow through the short days of winter and early spring. As their growing season is the opposite to many other crops, they don’t take up space in summer when you want to leave room for more tender veg, so they’re a great crop to give space over to in winter.  Right now is the time to start sowing seeds of these onions, either in trays for planting out in late September – which gives you a little control as to their growth – or into relatively light, well-draining soil on your plot.  Sow seeds thinly in well-raked soil, but don’t add fertiliser or it may encourage susceptible young foliage too soon.  Cover lightly with compost and water in, then thin out seedlings in early spring next year. In a month or so you’ll also buy onion sets to plant out, but there’s more fun in growing seed, and you can control the plants’ growth into solid little bulbs, which don’t bolt too soon, either.

If you see ‘Japanese onions’ on seed packets or a bag of sets, you know you’ve got some tough cookies.  First bred in Japan, they’re hardy and resilient overwintering varieties that will grow outside uncovered over the next few months, then provide you with lots of large, crisp bulbs at the end of next spring.  They need less light that other onions, so will grow through the short days of winter and early spring.

As their growing season is the opposite to many other crops, they don’t take up space in summer when you want to leave room for more tender veg, so they’re a great crop to give space over to in winter. 

Right now is the time to start sowing seeds of these onions, either in trays for planting out in late September – which gives you a little control as to their growth – or into relatively light, well-draining soil on your plot.  Sow seeds thinly in well-raked soil, but don’t add fertiliser or it may encourage susceptible young foliage too soon.  Cover lightly with compost and water in, then thin out seedlings in early spring next year.

In a month or so you’ll also buy onion sets to plant out, but there’s more fun in growing seed, and you can control the plants’ growth into solid little bulbs, which don’t bolt too soon, either.

Summer care for brassicas

Food and water is key now to ensure a bumper harvest

How are your brassica plants coming along?  It's likely you've planted them out by now and are keeping an eye on them, particularly for signs of pest and disease.  If you haven't planted them out, it's a little late but you can get away with it for a later crop.  Once planted, water them especially well because they're thirsty plants and August can be a dry month. If you're growing broccoli, manuring the ground before planting can mean it grows with all mouth and no trousers - that is, leaves galore but fewer spears! A little nitrogen-rich feed, such as liquid seaweed or Growmore, through summer can help as they grow, and every month after that give them a small boost to help them along.  This goes for cauliflowers, cabbages and other leafy brassicas. It's a waiting game for brassicas, though, as it'll be a good few months until any harvesting potential appears, but it's worth the effort for tasty, home-grown greens!  

How are your brassica plants coming along?  It's likely you've planted them out by now and are keeping an eye on them, particularly for signs of pest and disease.  If you haven't planted them out, it's a little late but you can get away with it for a later crop.  Once planted, water them especially well because they're thirsty plants and August can be a dry month.

If you're growing broccoli, manuring the ground before planting can mean it grows with all mouth and no trousers - that is, leaves galore but fewer spears! A little nitrogen-rich feed, such as liquid seaweed or Growmore, through summer can help as they grow, and every month after that give them a small boost to help them along.  This goes for cauliflowers, cabbages and other leafy brassicas.

It's a waiting game for brassicas, though, as it'll be a good few months until any harvesting potential appears, but it's worth the effort for tasty, home-grown greens!  

Sow pansies for spring

Start these beauties now for early blooms

Pansies are real 'doer' plants - quite apart from their floral glamour in times of need, they don't mind the cold, are perfect for pots and will do whatever you want them to do before and even after, other plants flower. Frilly, dramatic pansies are bred from wild violas, their hardy and robust nature lending themselves to the garden form, hence they give it their all in the colder months.  Sown now and they'll overwinter nicely and be ready to grace your garden early next year, starting the season off nicely. Sow in pots or trays of well-draining but lightly and evenly moist seed compost, covering seed with a fine layer of Vermiculite.  Keep the seedlings at about 15C (59F) or so, but no higher than about 19-19C (64-66F) or their germination may be hindered. Prick out the seedlings once they're big enough to be handled and transplanted into bigger, 9cm (3 1/2in) pots and overwinter in a cold frame, before planting out in early spring. Apart from the satisfaction of sowing your own bedding, this is a good way of getting early blooms from your own propagation.  

Pansies are real 'doer' plants - quite apart from their floral glamour in times of need, they don't mind the cold, are perfect for pots and will do whatever you want them to do before and even after, other plants flower.

Frilly, dramatic pansies are bred from wild violas, their hardy and robust nature lending themselves to the garden form, hence they give it their all in the colder months.  Sown now and they'll overwinter nicely and be ready to grace your garden early next year, starting the season off nicely.

Sow in pots or trays of well-draining but lightly and evenly moist seed compost, covering seed with a fine layer of Vermiculite.  Keep the seedlings at about 15C (59F) or so, but no higher than about 19-19C (64-66F) or their germination may be hindered.

Prick out the seedlings once they're big enough to be handled and transplanted into bigger, 9cm (3 1/2in) pots and overwinter in a cold frame, before planting out in early spring.

Apart from the satisfaction of sowing your own bedding, this is a good way of getting early blooms from your own propagation.  

Prune cordon apple trees

They'll need a trim now to curb growth before autumn. 

Cordons can be an easy way to control growth and save space if you want a number of fruit trees in your garden. It simply means a bush or tree with a leading central stem and trained with fruit-bearing sideshoots from it. They grow happily up against a wall, or staked in the open if you prefer, but walled cordons often look better, and the trees get some passive warmth if you choose a house wall.  if you have cordon fruit already, it's time to give trees a trim so you can curb their growth before autumn sets in. Trim down sideshoots over 20cm (10 in) to three leaves above this year's new growth. Sideshoots coming from sideshoots can be trimmed down to one leaf above this year's new growth. Tie in the leader, which, if it has grown too tall, you can prune and treat as a sideshoot.  Plant new cordons in late autumn, but don't train a tip-bearing variety - one that fruits on the tips of stems, as you'll continually be chopping them off and it won't fruit. It's best to get spur-bearers that fruit all the way along the stems. Check the type you're buying, or get advice from the nursery as to what you've got. 

Cordons can be an easy way to control growth and save space if you want a number of fruit trees in your garden. It simply means a bush or tree with a leading central stem and trained with fruit-bearing sideshoots from it. They grow happily up against a wall, or staked in the open if you prefer, but walled cordons often look better, and the trees get some passive warmth if you choose a house wall. 

if you have cordon fruit already, it's time to give trees a trim so you can curb their growth before autumn sets in. Trim down sideshoots over 20cm (10 in) to three leaves above this year's new growth. Sideshoots coming from sideshoots can be trimmed down to one leaf above this year's new growth. Tie in the leader, which, if it has grown too tall, you can prune and treat as a sideshoot. 

Plant new cordons in late autumn, but don't train a tip-bearing variety - one that fruits on the tips of stems, as you'll continually be chopping them off and it won't fruit. It's best to get spur-bearers that fruit all the way along the stems. Check the type you're buying, or get advice from the nursery as to what you've got. 

Summer pond care

A little time spent on it each week will keep it healthy

Summer's all about keeping everything healthy and ticking along nicely in the garden - and the same goes for ponds. As with all gardening, 15 minutes upkeep every week or so will keep everything in check. Leave it to its own devices and, after a few weeks, the job will probably turn into a bigger one! Ponds are often trickier than other areas of the garden - neglect them in summer and they can quickly turn into an eyesore! Unless you want a jungle swamp, add the pond to your regular tasks for peace of mind.  If your pond is becoming green and smelly and doesn't clear up, you may need to check the ratio of pond plants to water - they should be evenly matched - or whether your pond is too much in the open sunshine. Consider more shading plants as marginals to counter this.  Weed your pond as you would your borders. Apart from visible pond weed and algae, there'll be weeds to get rid of in between pond-side plants too. Plus, your oxygenators, which do a great job under the surface to increase oxygen levels, can get a little out of hand, so chop them back before they take over. 

Summer's all about keeping everything healthy and ticking along nicely in the garden - and the same goes for ponds. As with all gardening, 15 minutes upkeep every week or so will keep everything in check. Leave it to its own devices and, after a few weeks, the job will probably turn into a bigger one!

Ponds are often trickier than other areas of the garden - neglect them in summer and they can quickly turn into an eyesore! Unless you want a jungle swamp, add the pond to your regular tasks for peace of mind. 

If your pond is becoming green and smelly and doesn't clear up, you may need to check the ratio of pond plants to water - they should be evenly matched - or whether your pond is too much in the open sunshine. Consider more shading plants as marginals to counter this. 

Weed your pond as you would your borders. Apart from visible pond weed and algae, there'll be weeds to get rid of in between pond-side plants too. Plus, your oxygenators, which do a great job under the surface to increase oxygen levels, can get a little out of hand, so chop them back before they take over.