Trimming the longest of late summer lawns

GREEN FINGERS

Our warm, wet July has meant lawns are growing fast. Keep on top of mowing them.

If you return from holidays to find yours looking like a hay field, don’t cut it down in one go. Raise the height of your mower up full and cut it. Then each subsequent cut lower it one notch. This gradually lowers the height of the grass. If you do it all at once you will be left with tough brown stubble. Doing it gradually will let the grass grow leafy again.

Clip beach, hornbeam, leylandii, and thuija hedges. A trim later on in the month will keep them today till early next year. Aim to have the bottom of the hedge slightly wider than the top. This prevents shading which leaves bare patches.

If your hedge is taller than chest height, use a platform to stand on. Never use a ladder. Keep the top as flat and straight as possible. It makes the whole hedge look neater. Use a string between two bamboo cones if this helps.

If you have dwarf herb hedges of lavender, rosemary, or santolina, give them a trim also. It gives a chance for a bit of regrowth before winter. Even if they are not hedges, just shrubs in the garden, cut them. Just clip beyond the base of the old flower stems. If you keep them trimmed every year it prevents them from getting leggy and woody.

Rhododendrons and camellias are initiating their flower buds for next year in August. To have them at their best for next spring, keep them well-watered and feed with a high potash feed.

If you grow them on soils other than acidic ones, they may develop pale green and yellow leaves. This is lime-induced chlorosis, which means the lime in the soil is preventing the plant from getting the nutrients from the soil. To prevent this, apply and water in an iron chelate.

While you are tending to your rhododendrons and camellias, why not try a bit of propagation? With these plants it’s easiest done by layering.

Choose a young, flexible shoot down low on the plant, so you can bend it and touch the ground. Work some homemade garden compost into the soil where it will touch. Using a knife, make a shallow sloping cut 1-2 inches (2.5-5cm) long, no more than a third of the way through the stem and 6-8 inches (15-20cm) from the tip.

Bury the stem 2 inches (5cm) deep, along 6 inches (15 cm) of its length. Leave the same length sticking out the other end of the soil. Pin down with a U-shaped piece of wire. Leave it in the ground till it starts to grow and branch out like a young shrub. This may take a year or two. When ready, carefully dig up, cut the cord with the mother plant, and plant elsewhere

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