Here's the perfect way to perk up your garden plants...

If you want to keep your flower show going into September and October here are some tips from Olive Ryan
Here's the perfect way to perk up your garden plants...

ABOVE: Hanging baskets are at their flowering peak right now.

AS we head into the August, the garden is looking blooming marvellous! A little rain recently has done the plants a great service as they were getting thirsty.

All in all, they are holding out well as temperatures are good for the time of year, but largely it has remained cloudy in recent weeks which means that plants are not drying out as fast, thankfully.

Deadheading and feeding with a liquid feed are important jobs to attend to at this time of year, to keep the flower show going into September and October. Removing spent flowers will ensure the plants’ energy goes into making new flower buds instead of ripening seed, and particularly with summer displays of cosmos, petunias, dahlias, marigolds and a lot of annuals in particular.

Applying a homemade nettle tea can be a great tonic for jaded plants and will keep them looking at their best for longer.

Nettle tea fertilizer for application as a liquid feed to plants will help to boost a its immune system as nettles have antifungal and antibacterial properties. It will also help to deter insect pests when applied as a foliar spray. It only takes about two weeks to prepare.

Fill a bucket with chopped up nettle leaves and fill with water, allowing some space for stirring. Place a lid on the top but do not seal. Leave to ferment, stirring every day if possible, noticing bubbles appearing when it is stirred.

After about two weeks, the bubbles will no longer appear, indicating that the fermenting process is complete and the tea is ready for use. Strain the mixture, removing the more solid parts of stem and leaf, and put these on the compost.

This is quite a smelly job and not for the faint- hearted, but it will result in a free source of plant feed and insect repellent so is well worth the effort!

The resulting brown/green liquid is the concentrated nettle tea and this will need to be diluted with 10 parts water before application to plants.

It can be applied as a soil drench or a foliar spray once per month to give plants a welcome boost at this time of the year.

It is interesting to notice the plants in the garden that are enjoying the heat and are managing well with the lack of serious rainfall and do not need to be watered.

Salvias are great late summer plants that provide colour into the autumn and do manage well with drought.

Salvia ‘Royal Bumble’ is a great strong red colour and survives outside over winter, and as with all Salvias, it’s best to take a few cuttings and bring them indoors as insurance before the frost.

Grasses generally cope well in a drought situation so it may be worth considering incorporating some into planting schemes. They also look great in late summer and into the autumn as the lower angle of the sunlight catches their fading flowers and rusting foliage - morning and evening particularly.

Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’, also known as switch grass, has airy foliage that moves gently in the wind and produces excellent rusty autumn hues, as well as producing pink green flowers in late summer.

All the talk of deadheading as blooms fade brings to mind seed-saving and collection, which is timely now for late spring and early summer flowering favourites like foxgloves, honesty, sweet rocket and cow parsley.

Lupins can bring some gorgeous colour to the garden.
Lupins can bring some gorgeous colour to the garden.

Harvest seed on a dry day to ensure the seed is of the best quality possible, and it’s best to put seed heads into brown paper bags and place in a dry cool spot for processing on a rainy day in the future.

Hopefully, the better colours have been labelled in some way so that there is a chance of more unusual flower colour for the new generation - the white and speckled foxgloves are particularly attractive!

Some seeds need more cleaning and sorting than others, but if seed-heads are harvested on a good day, then it will make the processing easier, with the seed falling easily from the pods to the bottom of the bag if we are lucky!

Timing is also important for ripeness of the seed, so do regularly check plants that you would like to collect from as it is disappointing when all of the seed has dropped to the soil before collection.

There are a few herbaceous plants that will benefit from a light trim now to encourage a second flush of flowers, and it’s particularly good to cut back after some rain so that the plants have the resources to put on new growth.

Ladys mantle, some herbaceous geraniums, lupins and geums will benefit from a trim and may result in a late flush of colour.

Nicotiana ‘Fragrant Cloud.
Nicotiana ‘Fragrant Cloud.

Plant of the Week

An annual plant grown for cut flowers and scent has captured my heart this year.

Nicotiana x sanderae ‘Fragrant Cloud’ is quite a tall tobacco plant, getting to about 90cm in height and producing pure white flowers from June into September/October.

The outer petals of the flowers fade a little and have an attractive pink tinge as they do so.

It is great as a cut flower and to produce scent and attract bees and butterflies to the garden. A real country cottage style flower that will do best in full sun on a free-draining soil.

This plant is a half hardy annual and is best sown in April and planted out in late May when the risk of frost is gone.

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