Summer trip to Sissinghurst Castle and the end of year Garden Party

Instead of the June meeting the AHS held its Annual Summer Trip, this year  to the beautiful garden of Sissinghurst, created by Vita Sackville West and Harold Nicholson and now owned by the National Trust.  Over 70 members and friends went on the visit on a day that started wet but cleared later.  At the May meeting Ruth Martin gave a talk about the history and creation of Sissinghurst so hopefully those members who heard the talk were able to use their knowledge to understand and see how the garden has developed and appreciate its beauty today.

An end of year (that is the horticultural year) social for Aldersbrook Horticultural Society took place on a wet Tuesday evening in July.  However, despite the weather, about 40 members turned out to share food which members brought and Prosecco provided by the AHS.  Although, most of the evening took place indoors, when the sky cleared members were able to admire Theresa Holland’s beautiful garden.  A horticultural quiz was enjoyed by several members and won by Julie Donovan.  Ruth Martin, the chair of AHS, thanked Theresa for hosting the evening and announced the first meeting of the next horticultural year on Tuesday September 10th when Manoj Malde, a leading garden designer and RHS Ambassador will speak.

Tips of the month – July

Midsummer weather in July should bring plenty sunshine with long warm days that continue late into the evening. Sadly this year, we haven’t had much warm days, but don’t despair, summer is not over yet! At least your water butts are full, ready for drier spells when regular and wise watering will be needed.

Flowers 

Weekly deadheading and feeding will help to maintain healthy growth and encourage more flowers. 

  • Cut lavender for drying

A great way to keep shrubs neat and compact. Choosing flowers just as they mature, when they are the most fragrant. The best time is late morning – after the dew has dried but before the sun draws out the essential oil. Hang bunches upside down in a well-ventilated, warm dark spot.

  • Care for sweet peas
  1. Pick often
  2. Water regularly: they are thirsty plants so check the soil at the base to see if they need water.
  3. Feed regularly: every 10-14 days with tomato fertiliser, seaweed or homemade liquid comfrey. 
  • Harvest cut flowers 

Early mornings or evenings are the best time when the stems are full of water and less likely to wilt.

  • Collect and store seeds 

From ripe seed-heads from aquilegias, nigellas, poppies. Ensure that your seeds are dry before storing them in paper envelopes in a dark, cool and dry location.

Fruit and veg

  • Water thirsty plants such as celery, beans, peas courgettes, pumpkins and tomatoes regularly during dry weather.
  • Make the last pickings of rhubarb and and leave the stems in place; this will allow the plant to build up reserves for next year. Remove any flower spikes that start to form, cutting right down at the base. 
  • Thin out heavy crops of apples, pears and plums and remove and remove any malformed, damaged or undersized fruits.
  • Sow a last batch of beetroots, peas and dwarf beans  before mid-July for an autumn crop.
  • Sow veg to harvest during the winter months. Kale, winter cabbage spinach, radicchio, carrots.
  • Sow small batches of fast-maturing salad leaves and radishes every few weeks for continuous pickings.
  • Cover brassica with fine netting to prevent cabbage white butterflies laying their eggs on the leaves.
  • Continue pinching out any side shoots growing from the leaf joints of cordon tomatoes, also known as vine tomatoes. This will encourage the plants to put their energies into producing flowers and therefore fruits. 
  • Peg down strawberry runners into pots of compost to root new plants.

Tackle summer pests and diseases 

Pests and diseases can thrive in warm weather. 

  • Keep watch for pests such as lily beetles, snails, aphids and vine weevils and remove before they do too much harm.
  • Look out for clematis wilt. Symptoms are wilting leaves and black discolouration on the leaves and the stem. Cut out all affected material and dispose of it in your household waste. 
  • Stop rust damaging hollyhocks by pruning out affected leaves and dispose of them in your household waste.
  • Watch out for blight. In warm damp weather check for dark edges on the leaves of potatoes and tomatoes. Cute out affected leaves and dispose of it in your household waste.

Don’t forget 

  • Clear weeds regularly around your crops as they compete for nutrients and water.
  • Continue slug hunting.
  • Deadhead flowering plants (unless you want to keep and store seeds): to ensure the plant keeps producing more flowers rather than putting its energy into forming seeds.
  • Cool down the greenhouse:  In hot weather,  temperatures inside can rise to extremes, causing plants to become stressed and to dry out. Make sure that vents are open on sunny days. Drape shade nettings over the outside of the greenhouse. Damp down in the morning, wetting hard surfaces inside the greenhouse (floor and shelves) to help plants cope with the heat.
  • Prevent powdery mildew.  This fungal disease tends to affect plants in dry spells. Give plenty of moisture in summer and mulch after watering with a compost layer. 
  • Prune wisteria. Cut whip stems back to five or six leaves after flowering for healthy growth and to control the overall size. Don’t cut the woody framework. 
  • Continue to tie and train new growth on climbing plants.