So the summer continues and the garden is going bananas. My mother has sold her house and my sisters and I were up there emptying it for the new owners. The garden which we had tidied up only two weeks ago is astonishing: it is like a jungle. The grass is knee high and has gone to seed like unkempt meadow (oddly enough it looks nothing like a wildflower meadow at all). Weeds have abounded and bindweed has entwined itself, serpent-like around the climbing roses and tall plants. Her dahlias and other slug-gastro plants have been obliterated. If this can happen in a couple of weeks, just imagine what an untended garden would do. It always amazes me the way visitors comment on my own garden. ‘You are so lucky – there are no weeds!’ they note in astonishment; as though by some magical serendipitous collusion between biology and soil conditions I live in a weed-free environment. My hands, which look like those of an eighty year old navvy, bear witness to endless, back-breaking sessions of weeding. I try to do a bit every single day at this time of year and still they flourish amongst the plants. Another frequent comment is ‘God, mine died on me, how come yours do so well’ directed with a harrumphing stare at a fine specimen. Well the simple answer is that plants – like pets and children – take a lot of pampering in order to ‘do well’. Weeding aside, they need to be fed, watered, staked when appropriate, protected from slugs, deadheaded, divided regularly and de-loused. Thaw in a plant in any old place, in bone dry soil which has been leached of nutrients and leave it to do its own thing and it will not flourish (unless of course it is a weed).
So my top tips this week are:
- Weed, weed and more weeding
- Obliterate greenfly, blackfly, white fly and any other nasty insects
- Feed plants, especially those in pots periodically
- Water your plants in dry spells, again especially pot plants
- Dead head. This means removing spent flowers and flower spikes. This will frustrate the plants biological imperative of setting seeds and cause them to put on more flowers
- Stake and prop up plants that are floppy. Apart from looking better and preventing the stems breaking, it will stop weeds and slugs making their home under horizontal foliage.