Blooming Times – Time To Cut Back
by Flo Whitaker
It may be high summer, but it’s time to to cut back, clear up and harvest your veg. Why not follow Flo’s culinary footsteps for a fresh and delicious garden dinner?
August means different things to different people. For many folk it’s most definitely high summer; the traditional holiday season. However, if you’re a farmer, then August signals the end of the growing year. I hate to mention it, but the nights are drawing in. You don’t have to be in charge of 100’s of acres to notice the turning of the seasons. Even if you only have a handkerchief-size plot, this is the time for clearing, tidying and harvesting.
Many summer-flowering shrubs will have finished blooming now and can be gently pruned back. Trim lavenders with a very light touch; just enough to shear off the spent flower stems. If you cut too far into old growth, they’ll refuse to perform next year. However, neglected shrubs that have outgrown their positions can have entire stems removed at the base. Such hard pruning will weaken the plant so the process should be staggered over two, possibly three years. Never remove more than a third of offending branches at any one time – be patient and use those secateurs cautiously. Other characters, such as rambling roses, require firm treatment and can be reduced by half if necessary. Can’t find the front door? You’re probably in an abusive relationship with your wisteria. Grab the pruning shears and break free! Your postman will thank you for it.
On the veg patch, most strawberry plants will have finished fruiting and will be making ‘runners’; vigorous little off spring on long stems that will take root wherever they touch the ground. These can be cut away from the parent plant, transplanted into gaps, or potted up and given away. Pick your crops as soon as they’re ready. Don’t casually think, “Oh, I’ll leave it another day… or two…” otherwise vegetables quickly become tough and salads turn bitter as they run to seed. Unless you’re determined to grow the Largest Marrow in the World, (and you’ve left it far too late for this year), it’s better to pick produce when it’s small and tender. Regular harvesting will also encourage plants to produce more. I often make an ‘Allotment Omelette’ by boiling and dicing a couple of new potatoes, then throwing them into a frying pan with some olive oil, a few French beans and peas, a chopped shallot or salad onion, a couple of beaten eggs, and a sprinkling of cheese. The ingredients and quantities vary according to availability, so you can never make the same thing twice, but it’s a useful dish for using up small amounts of this or that. Eaten outside on a balmy evening, (remember those?) it’s a meal that looks good and, if the ingredients were only picked half an hour previously, will surely do you good.