Summer is well and truly here. By now gardens are usually scorched dry, but this year has been different kettle of fish, with many rainy spells and a hint of autumn is on the evening air. At this time of year gardening work consists of mainly keeping things ticking over and the pleasure of harvesting. Enjoy the last of the summer when you can with a mojito under a parasol and if you have time left over for a little gardening, consider the following:
When working in the garden this month be extremely careful of the temperatures, which can reach above 30 degrees and sometimes into the 40s. Work at the start and end of the day to avoid the strongest of the sun, wear sunblock and keep well hydrated.
Remember to inspect your box hedges for box tree moth caterpillars. If you identify its caterpillars are present the preferred option is to remove them by hand and dispose of them. For small topiaries etc this is practical. For large hedges treat with bacillus thuringiensis (a natural soil-borne bacteria) to kill caterpillars. Apply the treatment in the early morning to prevent it from evaporating before it can take effect. Use only when box tree moth caterpillars are present to target this species only and ensure minimal destruction of other insects.
Use in conjunction with a pheramone trap to really interrupt the lifecycle of the box tree moth and maximise efficacy.
Drought and storm damage
Heatwaves can cause the mecury to rise beyond 40 degrees for days at a time in this part of France, and severe storms can beat the garden into submission. By this time of year the garden may well be looking a little ragged as a result.
Check tree ties and adjust where necessary.
Prune out any dead, diseased and damaged plant material. Remember dead and damaged plant material can be added to the compost heap.
Remove any plants that have sadly not made it, take stock and consider what replacements, if any, need to be made in a month or two once the heat subsides and rains return.
Autumn is the optimal time for new planting and helps with drought tolerance in the following year. Designing and creating new plantings/updating existing areas of planting are my speciality and what I love doing the most. If you would like help with designing and planting your garden, please get in touch here.
Continue to water new plantings deeply once or twice a week. New plantings are vulnerable for the first couple of years until they are established. Renew organic mulchings, where appropriate, to assist with water retention.
A lot of the garden will be dormant at this time of year, but this will not stop weeds from flourishing if they are allowed to flower and go to seed, especially with the repeated wet and dry periods we are having this year. Remember to keep on top of weeding, little and often is key. Apply any herbicide to persistent perennial weeds such as bindweed on dry days in the early morning or evening to allow it to be absorbed before it is evaporated away by the sun.
Continue to mow, even if just to remove the flowerheads of weeds to keep them at bay.
Continue deadheading. Dahlias, roses, buddleia, helenium etc can all have their finished flowers removed regularly to encourage the plants to continue producing new flowers.
It may even be suitable to remove flowerheads from some herbaceous perennials entirely, if flowering is finished, all the way to the bottom of the stem. Plants such as Gaura, Knautia, Kniphofia, Echinops, Echinacea, Eryngium (why all the E’s?) will benefit from this treatment. Water them after doing so and they will throw up new growth and new flower stems in late summer/early autumn.
Euphorbias, such as E. amygdaloides and characias, will have finished flowering a long while ago and will benefit from having their flowers removed so that the remaining stems can mature and produce next year’s flowers. Prune out spent Euphorbia flowers back to the bottom of the stem to just above where you see new growth being produced. Remember to wear gloves at the very least to protect your skin from the toxic sap.
Holiday watering advice
Move containers to a shady area and water them well before leaving on holiday. Group the containers together on a tray(s) of water. If possible, get a neighbour to refill the tray(s) whilst you are away.
Deadhead and harvest your veg now so things don’t spoil in your absence and when you return you will have a replenished stock of fruit, veg and flowers.
In the potager
Harvest, harvest, harvest. Enjoy the fruits of your labours. Continued harvesting will also encourage your plants to keep producing more fruit and veg.
Prune fruit trees if you weren’t able to do it last month, see here.
Plant cauliflowers and other brassicas for a supply of winter veg. Remember to net your brassica plantings to protect from them from cabbage white caterpillar and keep pigeons from pecking away at them.
A fresh batch of french beans can be planted now for an autumn crop of beans.
Plant of the month
By this time of year the summer drought has taken its toll and many plants have begun going to seed. However, Gaura lindheimeri (recently reclassified as Oenothera lindheimeri) seems to be somewhat bullet proof and the sun only seems to encourage it. It tends not to survive winters in wetter, clay-based, soils and is better adapted to drier, stony or gravelly gardens, not in short supply in this part of France.
It is a dainty, airy plant that looks like a floating swarm of butterflies and adds an ethereal, naturalistic quality to the summer garden. It comes in white and pink ‘flavours’ with shades and mixtures of both inbetween. To look its best it does better surrounded by other plants to prevent it splaying out in the middle and flopping all over the place.