Zena Robson, Woodborough Garden Centre - Vegetables soon come to fruition

Lilac can benefit from being cut back if it’s looking a bit old

Lilac can benefit from being cut back if it’s looking a bit old

First published in News

It’s harvesting time! If you grow your own vegetables then you will be reaping the rewards now – early potatoes will be ready but check by lifting one plant.

If they are too small or there aren’t many tubers then leave the rest and make sure they are well-watered by soaking them once a week – more if it is dry.

Onions, shallots and garlic will be ready to be lifted soon. Wait until the leaves start to turn yellow and go floppy then ease the bulbs out of the ground. Leave them on the soil surface for a few days if it is dry and warm. If you intend to store them they must be absolutely dry before they are packed or they will rot.

String them up in the French fashion or put them into old tights and hang them up. You can also store them in single layers in boxes.

Back to watering – I cannot stress the importance of consistent watering when you are growing veggies or fruit. With some veggies, they will simply run to seed and become completely inedible if they don’t have enough water on a regular basis.

Others, like runner beans, contort into strange lumps and bumps because some of the ‘beans’ did not develop properly. If you have trouble, consider laying a seep-hose system around and through the vegetable area. Fitted to a timer, night-time watering is the most efficient. Use mulches on the soil’s surface to stop evaporation.

You can still sow some seed for an autumn crop of things such as carrots, beetroots and turnips. They won’t have the time to grow into whoppers but they’ll be small and tender and just right for immediate eating.

If you did not get around to pruning early summer flowering shrubs such as Philadelphus, Deutzia, Kolkwitzia and Weigela, then do it now. If the plant is mature and has developed into a bit of a thicket, the best thing is to remove one in three of the oldest stems close to the ground. That will open the thing up immediately and provide light and air for the new growth.

As with all pruning, do the 3Ds as well – dead, diseased and damaged. Feed, water and mulch after pruning. Likewise, if you have a lilac that is looking a bit old and leggy, then cut it down to about 2ft.

It’s drastic action and you’ll have to wait a couple of years for it to flower again but it’s worth a try. If that sounds too much like butchery then do half now and the other half next year.

Early summer flowering hybrid Clematis such as ‘Nelly Moser’ will need a bit of a haircut once they have finished flowering. Just shear over the tops but don’t go mad – you’re just tidying up.

Keep on deadheading – ‘little and often’ is the mantra here, along with ‘do it when you see it’.

Don’t forget that statistically, July and August are the hottest months of the year so try to save water to use in the garden whenever you can and confine the watering to things that need it.

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