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August started very cold and rainy, then, as I write this, summer clothes are back out of the wardrobe.  Mowing the lawn has become a game of chance and hedge cutting more frequent. Happily, I've noticed there are lots more butterflies other than the cabbage white around, so I've planted up a couple more buddlea in the new top bed to encourage them to keep coming back.

Although there are still plenty of plants to be enjoyed this month, amongst them, hydrangea, chrysanthemum, crocosmia, agapanthus, some perennials will be past their best, so time to tidy up the beds.  Lavenders like to be cut quite hard back to stop them going woody and leggy and ensure a healthy, strong head of blooms next year, but cutting into the hard, older wood could upset the plant. Lavenders have a short life and, as a rule, need to be replaced every 5-6 years. Left to fend for themselves, they become bereft of blooms on the lower part of the plant and weak heads of flowers only at the top. They can look quite gnarly and interesting though in the right situation.

Perennials that have finished flowering can be cut right back to the base. Those that have become too large for their space can be up and split.  Any not required immediately for re-planting can be potted up for later use. September is a good month to buy and plant up new plants, particularly roses. 

Sow up hardy annuals for flowering next year, making sure the soil is free of weeds and loose and crumbly to allow the emerging shoots to reach light speedily. Seedlings are very low in nutrients in their system, so need an easy ride up. Included in this clutch are calendula, cornflower, poppies, sunflower, nigella and some dill in the herb bed. My herb bed currently needs some urgent attention as it's somewhat overgrown and crowded - it's on my ever-growing list!

Make new plants for next year by taking cuttings of, for example, fuchsia, pelargonium, petunias and marguerites that have been used for bedding out, containers or in hanging baskets. Cut the tops by half and re-pot in fresh compost and leave them in a cold, but frost-free place keeping them moist, but not wet.  Always choose healthy, strong shoots about 3”, trim back any low growing leaves and insert to half their depth in potting compost.  Once roots have formed (after a few weeks) they can be potted on to slightly larger pots and kept inside until springtime planting in their ultimate place.

Spring bulbs can be planted now amongst existing plants or in pots; if using the latter make sure the pots are well cleaned and a fresh mixture of potting compost mixed with bulb fibre is used. Water them gently in, then leave alone ‘till next year.  Think about planting up clumps in unusual places - by the side of the greenhouse, shed or summerhouse or next to the garage door in a big pot.

Although plenty of harvesting will have been going on throughout August, September is when to gather and store onions, shallots, potatos, beans, etc.  Vegetables in the allium family should store well tied in long bunches and hung in a cool, darkish, dry place. Potatoes can be left in the ground or undamaged ones stored in hessian sacks and kept, again, in a cool, dry, dark place.  It’s a good idea to check stored potatoes after a month or so to ensure none have started to rot. Legumes are brilliant for freezing having been top & tailed, rinsed & blanched, then packed in portions in plastic bags or boxes.

Net up autumn raspberry canes to stop the birdies from helping themselves or invest in some pop-up cages that can be stored quickly and easily when not in use. I only have a few canes in a metre-square raised bed and bought a tall one that was invaluable.

As I sit, glass to hand, Martha is annoying the cats - both jealous of each other. The cats play a long game, sitting next to me with a superior air, whilst Martha jumps around excitedly demanding to know why they're the centre of attention. Every now and again, a cat will swipe out at her. She's learning fast.

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