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Gardener's Diary 

                              August 2009


At this time of year I start looking at any plants that have seed pods forming, as I find immense satisfaction in growing plants for free from seed I have previously collected. 

castor oil plantSeveral years ago I spent £6 on one packet with only five seeds of the Castor Oil plant Ricinus Carmencita, a really unusual architectural annual, (see left). Although expensive at the time, each year they've produced dozens of viable seeds, which produced endless plants. So when funds are at a premium go on a seed hunt.  Ask your neighbours if you can collect any of their seeds from plants you fancy...

You can also research online for any plants that are suitable for taking stem cuttings at this time of year. This is wood that is no longer soft and sappy but not yet very ripe. 

Don't forget that summer isn't all about working in your garden;  take some time out to visit a garden show or two, such as the  Malvern Autumn Show.

Or go to the RHS event finder for more walks, talks and shows; scroll down to find events for August.






An introduction from Rosemary Martin...

I have been gardening now as a hobby for about thirty years, but have no formal training..  I don't have a favourite style of gardening, traditional is nice, but I also think the modern trends work well. 

This column adds a new dimension to my interest in all aspects of horticulture and will hopefully help others find pleasure in this healthy and therapeutic pastime  ...  

Please e-mail me with your garden problems, comments, or ideas for this section of  laterlife, remembering to tell me which country you are from..  

Click here for previous editions of Gardener's Diary..

Jobs for the month in the kitchen garden..



August really is the time to reap the rewards of your labours in the vegetable garden.

  • Broad beans will finish this month but have been supplanted by the excellent runner bean crop.
  • Runner beans are particularly thirsty, so remember to water well in dry spells.
  • runner beansMaincrop potatoes can be lifted at the end of the month and stored somewhere dry and cool in paper or hessian sacks.
  • Onions and shallots can be lifted when the foliage has died down; leave to dry out for a few days before storage for winter use.
  • Carry on picking courgettes when around four to six inches long to prolong the cropping season and summer broccoli should be continually harvested to prevent the florets turning into flowers. All surpluses at this time of year can  be stored or frozen for later use.
  • Sweetcorn should be watered if the weather is dry, particularly at flowering time; tap the tassels when fully developed to aid pollination and liquid feed when the cobs start to develop.
  • The last sowing of carrots and swede can be made before the middle of the month for winter harvesting and brussels can be sown for sturdy plants next year.
  • Aubergine plants should be misted to aid pollination and fed with liquid tomato fertilizer when the fruits are developing; allow a maximum of six fruits per plant, remove any other flowers after this.
  • Continue to feed tomatoes and cucumbers once a week and water daily to maintain cropping.


  • Pick early apples and pears and try to use immediately as they will not keep. To test whether the fruit is ready, lift a fruit in the palm of your hand and, with the slightest twist, the fruit will part company from the tree. Never pull a fruit leaving the stalk on the tree or breaking off the spur.
  • When summer raspberries have finished fruiting, cut the old canes down to ground level and tie in the new canes for next year. Autumn fruiting raspberries will now be ready to pick, which should compensate for the loss of the summer varieties!
  • When black and red currants have been picked, prune the bushes to remove dead or damaged wood and around a third of older wood, the idea being to promote new, vigorous growth from the base and to keep the centre of the bushes open and light.
  • If you need new strawberry plants for next year then pot up some of the young plants produced on runners, if you don`t need the new plants then cut off the runners to maintain the plant`s strength.
  • Try to support laden plum branches to prevent branches snapping as this can lead to silver leaf infection in the wounds. Wasps can become a nuisance at this time of year so hang traps baited with beer or syrup amongst the trees.


Flower garden

summer flower tubsDeadhead plants in hanging baskets, tubs and borders to prolong your display into the autumn. Cut back the foliage of plants that have finished flowering and are starting to Prune climbing and rambling roses once the flowers have finished.
Collect seed from hardy annuals and perennials for sowing later in the autumn. Towards the end of August sow hardy annuals. They will overwinter and flower next summer.
Cyclamen that have been resting over the summer can be started back into growth for winter blooms; repot them if necessary and water well.


Damp down the greenhouse on hot days to maintain humidity levels and eliminate pests.

We're growing some interesting plants in the greenhouse this year and don't quite know what they're going to produce. A melon/cucumber plant and a cucumber/apple plant are growing happily away and producing some odd looking fruits which, if they're edible, we won't know what to do with anyway. An aubergine plant has one huge black aubergine growing and loads more flowers, and the Cape Gooseberry (Golden Berry) is producing hundreds of fruits which all our visitors seem to love!


Continue to remove blanket weed using a net or rake. Remove faded flowers from aquatic plants. Keep water topped up in hot weather when much of it will evaporate. Don't forget to top up water where necessary in water features and bird baths.

teazlesWildlife gardening

Save seed heads from sunflowers and teazles (see right) for the birds to eat over winter. I hang them in our trees for the birds to find. Keep food containers and the bird bath clean and topped up. Be aware that there might be other wildlife such as hedgehogs in your garden at this time of year, when you're wielding a spade.

Garden structures

Take advantage of any dry weather by painting fences, sheds and other wooden features with a preservative.
Get rid of moss and algae on paths and patios with a patio cleaner or jet wash them, which is more fun! Doing this job now will prevent them becoming slippery and dangerous during the winter.
Replace broken glass panes in greenhouses before the winter. Greenhouse guttering can also be checked to ensure it is not blocked with debris.





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Amazon book - Gardens of the National Trust. When the National Trust decided to take on the care of gardens, the aim was that these would be the very best of their kind in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Trust now has the finest collection of gardens ever assembled under one ownership..

Volunteering with the National Trust

Volunteers are active in all parts of the National Trust, from the new central office in Swindon to the summits of Snowdonia and Divis Mountain near Belfast.

View their latest opportunities, or find out more about the kind of roles and different places you can volunteer:

Still with the National Trust, some of the most visited National Trust properties are now holding regular farmers' and food markets.  Click here for details  and dates.



RHS gardens


Their four flagship gardens not only provide year-round interest and offer a wide range of courses, talks and demonstrations, they also demonstrate the best gardening practices, new techniques and exciting new plants to try in your garden.

Or go to their website for a diary of all other events at:-

Do you take advantage of the BBC Gardening website for information? I find it a valuable source of information, for up to date legislation, countryside matters and useful information such as plant pests and diseases, which saves me ploughing through all my gardening books, with the knowledge that their information is bang up to date...


Thompson & Morgan LogoThompson & Morgan 


Visit where full information is available on their product varieties and orders can be taken on-line.  Have a look to see what is new, and special seasonal offers


Some places to visit... 



The Eden Project


The living theatre of plants and people
The Eden Project is a gateway into the world of plants and people. A meeting place for all to discover how we depend on plants and how we can help to manage and conserve them for our mutual survival.


Kew Gardens two locations:-

Tel: 020 8332 5655 (24 hr)
Fax: 020 8332 5197

Royal Botanic Gardens

Tel: 01444 894066 (24 hr)
Fax: 01444 894069

Royal Botanic Gardens
Wakehurst Place
Nr Haywards Heath
West Sussex
RH17 6TN


The National Botanic Gardens of Scotland comprise:

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Scotland's Premier Garden

Benmore Botanic Garden, Argyll
Argyll's Magnificent Mountainside Garden

Dawyck Botanic Garden, Borders
Wonderful Woodland Garden

Logan Botanic Garden, Galloway
Scotland's Most Exotic Garden

The National Botanic Garden of WalesThe National Botanic Garden of Wales

The star attraction here is the 91 metre long domed glasshouse, that houses landscapes normally found in the Mediterranean. This would be a super place to visit on a chilly day...




Some websites of interest to gardeners:-


Carry on Gardening - The easier gardening web site from ThriveGardening is an important part of many people's lives. You don't have to give up gardening because of accident or illness, the onset of disability or the problems associated with growing older. The information on their website is designed to provide you with the information to Carry on Gardening.

Carry on Gardening was initiated by the horticultural charity Thrive and is funded by the National Lottery Charities Board.  It brings together information on easy ways of gardening gathered over 23 years by Thrive and research carried out since the early 1970s by Mary Marlborough Centre, Oxford, on tools and equipment for disabled and older people. 



Useful reading:-


"The Yellow Book" contains information of all Gardens of England and Wales open for charity, and can be bought priced ?5 from National Gardens Scheme

National Trust Gardens Handbook is ?6.99 and the new edition is out in May  Telephone 01394 389 950 or see their website

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