Well the dahlias are in and the Hot Border is providing a fire cracker of a display. Courgettes and cabbages are coming in thick and fast from the Kitchen Garden and the beans and beetroot are not far behind.
But when you have cropped your courgettes or your beetroot or your spring bulbs are over in your borders what do you do? Do you have plants that grow out to fill the space or do things look a bit scrappy. Well fear, not because the solution is to successionally sow or plant depending on the size of your garden and the amount of effort you are able to make.
In the kitchen garden of old, the vegetable beds would have been productive throughout the year. None of us can replicate that kind of intensity but you can have fresh salad leaves throughout summer by sowing every two weeks to ensure lovey baby leaves. Good choices would be Rocket, Mizuna and Mustard.
You can also resow herbs such as dill, sorrel, coriander and parsley as any spring sowings will be flowering and going to seed. If you want to get into growing salad leaves year round, I can heartily recommend Charles Dowding’s book ‘Salad Leaves for All Seasons’. There’s advice on everything from getting the best yields, indoor and outdoor sowing, pests and best flavours.
On your borders, you can, if you are feeling adventurous drop in some truly exotic plants like canna lilies (Indian Shot plant ). Canna ‘General Eisenhower’ has dark red leaves and bright red flowers, can be planted out any time after the end of June and will be in full flower from September, making a display until cut down by frost.
Treat like dahlias, lifting the tuberous rhizomes and storing them somewhere cool, dark and frost-free (the shed is fine. Put them in crates in old potting compost, watered maybe once every two to three weeks to keep them from shrivelling and then giving them a bit more light once they start to show signs of activity in spring. Harden off and plant out again in July, splitting them if the clumps have grown too big.
Or with a little forethought, you can plant perennials that will grow in a timely fashion to hide the dying foliage of spring bulbs such as alliums and tulips. Great plants for this are big leaved salvias such as Salvia sclarea var. turkestanica which gets up to a full height of 2m(6ft) thus providing ample camouflage for any scrappy bulb foliage. Others include hostas, day lilies and oriental poppies. If you love seed sowing and want to think about next year, you can start some plants off now to get ahead of the game. Sow biennials such as sweet william, foxgloves, wallflowers such as the bright orange Erysimum x marshallii, or gorgeous hardy annuals like the lacy Bishops’ flower, Ammi majus or the shorter Ammi viznaga, to get good sized plants earlier.
This is just a flavour of what you can do, so experiment a little and have fun this year and next.
Tricia Harris August 2017