Notes from the Garden Shed: August 2016

Fat chloroplast cells now turn oak and shrub a deep rich green, and vegetal photosynthesis machinery is in full production - stand back and admire. 

Oak leaves work in the sunshine

By the end of August, we’ll be at the full tide of the year’s growth for the UK’s native species. Watch for the moment when the tide turns, little by little slowing towards autumn.

Now is the season of ripening - seeds in all their wonderful variety cocooned in pod or fruit grow and fill.  Flowers have done their job attracting a myriad host of pollinators bringing pollen to fertilise the eggs hidden deep in the heart of the flower structures. Now the plant feeds and nurtures this precious cargo before finding ways to spread their seed.

Of course with vegetables we are the main seed dispersers. Two notable examples of just how long we’ve been doing this job is the Date palm seed found in a cave dwelling near the Dead Sea, dated to 2,000 years ago which germinated successfully. But it’s a mere sideshow compared to the 4,500-year-old wheat seeds found inside a pyramid that germinated and grew. Anyone got a pyramid I can store my seeds in? 

Now is also the season for watering to become the issue. ‘Yes I know it rained last week but your containers still need watering at least every other day – and I don’t just mean a just a splash but a real soak!’   If the big agri companies want to do something useful they could design plants to turn blue when they were thirsty – people might then notice – rather than the sad procession of yellows and browns of plants in their death throes. 

Vegetable seeds in all their diversity

If you have apple or pear trees, now’s the time for some judicious summer pruning. Learn the modified Lorette system that encourages the trees to set more fruit buds for next year.  It’s not that difficult and I find it most therapeutic!

Happy vegetable seed collecting – but don’t bother with F1 hybrids as they don’t ‘come true’ the second year!