Rockvale Stone & Garden

The last day of February – and Autumn begins: Hopefully a settling time weatherwise. Today Tuesday 21st has been the perfect Summer day – hot with cornflower blue skies – too hot to be busy in the garden which was good for me after such a busy week prior and weekend hosting the last beautiful wedding in our garden – after hosting many weddings over almost 20 years. The garden here – Rockvale Gardens is full to bursting with Summer colour, open daily for locals to wander…bring a picnic.
I have needed to water gardens in the last couple of weeks and start using the compost made from last Winter and Spring to mulch trees and shrubs – I need the bins empty for all the leaves that will be falling soon. The compost being made from the Summer cut backs, will need the sprinkler on now to add the moisture needed to start the compost cooking during the hot Autumn days. Once the heat has built up, the compost will hold the heat and break down before the cold Winter months – but it must heat up now and have the moisture needed to do that.
A lot of gardens have catmint. Give a second Summer cut back about now, because there is still time for another flush of growth now before Winter.
Autumn is the best time to get Conifers and Shrubs settled in before Winter – there should be good supplies now in Garden Centres.
Seed collecting and planting should be happening now. I have collected Lupin, Dianthus, Poppy and Sweet Peas – all can be planted now or stored in paper bags and planted in early Spring.
From now on is said to be the best time to sow a new lawn. A lot of the annual seeds will not germinate as fast as the grass seed now with nights cooling, giving the grass seed a chance to grow quickly. Prepare the ground by raking and firming, fill any hollows that puddles will form in, sow grass seed and lightly rake it into the soil then a light watering. Don’t allow the ground to be too damp going into the night – dews are enough for the tiny new grass roots and if kept on the dry side, they should put roots down looking for moisture. Choose the right type of grass for the area – there is seed for high traffic, shady and sunny areas and fine grass for show lawns. It is best to get fresh seed coated with bird protection. Birds will still begin to feast on this – so if you have sown only a small area, cover it with frost cloth, shade cloth or wind break. This will keep the birds off and still let the light in to allow the grass seed to germinate.
I have needed to be quick to beat the birds to the Apricots and Grapes will soon need bird cover. Also birds are feasting on early varieties of Apples – like large cooking varieties – best to pick and store in a cool place. Passionfruit needs well watered and fed now, as this helps improve the fruit.
It is a good time to sow Root plants like Asparagus, Beetroot, Carrots, Chives, Leeks, Onions, Parsnips, Shallots, Spring Onions.
Harvest Herbs now for drying, I lay mine out on newspaper and cover with newspaper in the back of our garage and leave until they are crunchy to the touch – then I rub them into small particles before storing into glass containers. I am still using last years supply – much better flavour than bought mixed herbs and a useful gift to give. My mix is Rosemary, Sage, Pineapple Sage, Thyme, Parsley, Mint, Celery leaves, Nasturtium leaves and Basil. After cutting back the Herbs ,they will soon put on another lot of fresh growth before the frosts make them dormant.
Another use for Herb harvesting, is to place them in with Potatoes for storing. Storing Potatoes to last through Winter was most important back when veg gardens were relied on to feed a family. The practice of Herbs stored with Potatoes has been passed down in history and involves placing a muslin bag ( or old pillow case ) filled with a mixture of dried Lavender, Sage and Rosemary – right by the Potatoes. These Herbs suppress sprouting and stop bacteria that can lead to storage rot. Potatoes should be kept in a rather humid place (raised off the ground) to keep them from becoming flaccid and withered in appearance. They should not be kept with onions, because both emit gases that cause a steep quality decline in the onions.
Cheers, Linda

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