by Derek Kirk –
Now it’s time to think of vegetables for winter use. Leeks for use from December onwards should be planted now: work a little general fertiliser into the ground, then firm down with your feet, plant in rows 1’ apart, and 6-8” apart in the row – make holes with a dibber, trim each leek’s root by about half, then just trim the tops lightly, drop in the holes and water in. Do not fill in the holes with soil – water every day for the first week, then every second, third and fourth day, depending on the rain.
It’s also time to plant late sprouts, savoy cabbage and next spring’s sprouting broccoli. Again, work in a little general fertiliser, then firm down the soil with your feet as before. Sow spring cabbage seed for cutting next March/April – sow half now and the rest in a month’s time. All of the brassica family like to have their feet in firm ground. Set plants 18” apart in rows and the rows 2’ apart. Put a polythene collar around each stem to help keep the cabbage root fly away; better still, make a frame just under 2’ high using a very fine mesh netting. If you put this over the top as well, this will keep out the cabbage white butterfly.
Make your own collars from any spare polythene. I use the offcut pieces of pond liner. Make a ¼ “ hole in the middle, then cut from one edge to the hole making a flap to fit around the plant stalk. Hold down edges with a couple of small stones.
If you want to replace any of your strawberries next year, you can do this by pegging down one of the plantlets on the runners, either in the strawberry bed or in a 3” pot in a mixture of compost and soil. Use the plantlet nearest to the old plant, then nip out the rest of the runner. Don’t use more than 3 plantlets per old plant. In the 3rd week of August, the runners can now be cut from the main plant and can be planted in a new bed.
Prune summer fruiting raspberries – cut out right to the ground all the canes that have just fruited, then train the new ones in their place. Start to pick early apples, pears and plums. After picking you can then summer-prune.
Summer-prune wisteria – all side growth that has formed on the main branches need to be shortened to 6 leaves each. Summer-prune roses now that the first lot of flowers have died. If you need the space or they are overcrowded, lift daffodil, narcissi and bulbous irises as they have finished their growing. If not, leave them, as they do not benefit from lifting and drying each year.
Cyclamen corms that have been resting in a shady place can now be restarted: place in the smallest pot that will take all the roots, place back in the shade for a couple of weeks; water very modestly at first, but daily spray corms lightly with tepid water to encourage the new growth. If hydrangeas have finished flowering they will benefit from a light pruning. Cut off the faded flower trusses back to the first plump growth bud and any thin weak stems.
At this time of the year you can continue to remove dead and faded flowers, runners, etc. Disbud roses and dahlias if you want bigger flowers for displays. Continue to trim hedges. Keep an eye out for all of the usual garden pests and spray as before. Make an earwig trap by putting some hay or dried grass in a 4” flower pot, and placing upside down on a stake in amongst the plants you want to protect. Remove and destroy earwigs each day.
Ripen off onions sown in January – March: do this by bending over the leaves just above the bulb. When they have ripened, lift them with a fork and leave to dry on the ground. After a few days clean any soil off them and store on shelve or shallow boxes in a frost-proof shed. Finish earthing up the main crop of celery.
Lift and store early beetroot when they are about tennis ball size: twist off the tops – do not cut them off as this will cause bleeding that spoils the colour. Store in a cool place in a tub or box of slightly moist sand.