Gardener's ramblings: July

Two older females bend over into a bed of plants as they weed
Published : 13 Jul 2018

In the midst of a summer heatwave, Gardener Anna Tolfree considers the impact on grass conditions with some tips whilst revealing her guilty pleasure, weeding!

OK I have a confession to make… (Although I strongly suspect they’re others like me) When I visit other gardens as a member of the public, I’m actively searching for something. I don’t always find it but when I do, it makes me feel like I can almost relate to the garden that bit more. What am I looking for? Weeds!

It may sound silly but I’m only human and my own garden at home has the odd weed within it as do areas of the garden I look after at Stowe. So, to be able to see them in other gardens makes me feel like I haven’t failed, that other people are like me and don’t always win the war with these tiresome plants. Now, if we’re going to be technical about this, a weed is any plant that for you personally is in the wrong place. It could anything at all. Some people love the wildflowers that pop up such as herb robert with its pretty pink geranium-like flowers and will leave it wherever it pops up, whilst others will remove it as soon as they find it (me included).

Herb robert grows amongst chives and wild flowers
NTIL86777 Herb Robert Heddon Valley
Herb robert grows amongst chives and wild flowers

At home I never use weed killer as I find it unnecessary and I can quickly weed my garden without it. At work in the garden I rarely use it to treat weeds: I only use it to treat some of the gravel paths and areas around the temples where bits of grass and weeds will pop up. For me personally the list of my own plants that I class as weeds is long. My volunteers know me well enough that I go into a frenzy if I find any number of these in areas that they shouldn’t be as I start ripping them out.

I guess I also have another confession. I enjoy weeding. To be able to go through a bed and remove it of weeds, to make the bed look smarter so you can see the occasional gap of dark brown soil between plants is a great feeling for me. Again I suspect there are other odd people like me who enjoy this past-time and almost find it therapeutic.

The other issue apart from weeds at the moment is water, or rather, the lack of it. Having recently planted up a large area with new trees and shrubs, they require watering once a week. Because we’ve had no rain it means this job is performed by us. We’ll use a large water bowser on a trailer that we can tow along using a little tractor. The bowser has a small engine on it that enables us to connect a hose to it and use as you would a tap at home and extract the water. It’s fairly quick but unfortunately filling the bowser takes a little while as it holds about 2000 litres but is quick to empty. I’ll only concentrate on watering newly planted areas as you would be surprised by how many more mature plantings can withstand temporary droughts.

Many people I know will be worried about their lawns and how brown they’ll be going (mine is no different), but don’t be. Grass is very resilient and can stand not being watered for quite a period of time. But do not cut it. This will stress the grass out more; if patches of it are still growing you can give it a high cut but do not pick the grass up. If the grass is left down as mulch this will actually help it by keeping some of the moisture in the soil and actually protect it.

Pick the right time to mow and certain levels according to weather conditions
A gardener mowing the lawns in summer
Pick the right time to mow and certain levels according to weather conditions

The other tip is to water either very early in the morning or late in the evening as this a cooler time of the day and any water will not evaporate in the sun, giving the plant or tree more of a chance to take it up before it gets too hot. The other problem that can occur if you water whilst it’s too hot is any water that might end up on foliage can actually scorch the plant from the heat of the sun and can damage it.

So whilst many of us will enjoy the sunshine and its heat don’t forget about looking after the pots and plants within your garden as they require a little help from you but in return will provide you with a beautiful display while you are sat in your garden enjoying the weather.

Happy Gardening.