Harvest is a time of new beginnings, as the long hot summer draws to a close, the hum of traffic increases as schools return to their academic routines and the garden gives its final push of colour and splendor before the weather changes and autumn is really upon us. We have had the most spectacular summer season. The swiss federal office of meteorology has declared 2018 the third hottest summer since records began in 1864; only 2003 and 2015 were warmer. Rainfall this year has also been record breaking, noticable by its absence, between 20-30% below average. These extreme weather conditions affect the home gardener making planting decisions more and more critical. Right plant right place the byword of Beth Chatto, the well-known British plantswoman, is now more important than ever.
How have you coped with these tricky conditions this summer? My lawn is once again dry and yellow with the soil beneath parched and dusty. I thought the pots on my terrace were large enough to cope with dry conditions but they have proven to not be big enough, note to self even larger pots for next year. Leaves are turning and falling from the trees at a surprising rate much earlier than I’m used to. The fruit on my trees are already mature which caught me a little off guard. Always adapting to changing conditions, there is never a dull moment.
On a more positive note, the roses have been truly magnificent, repeat blooming varieties giving their all for the entire summer – I don’t know how a garden can be complete without a rose. Returning from a trip a few years ago to find courgettes the size of a small dog, I refrained from planting them this year however we have enjoyed weeks of delicious fragrant cherry tomatoes with basil and more green beans than I know what to do with. My direct vegetable seed sowing efforts were less successful. I think the super hot conditions combined with sporadic watering just sunk them. Next year I’ll give in and spend time filling fiddly seed trays with compost and transplant out seedlings when they are robust enough to survive. Something I have not missed this year is slugs. For once the heat seems to have significantly impacted their numbers, let’s hope this means going into autumn there will be even fewer of these pests around to damage our plants. The box wood caterpillar however is never far off and I’ve ended up spraying against this pest already twice this summer. I keep a keen eye out for small white moths, I occasionally spray a jet of water from the hose through the small hedges to see if there are any to disturb. If I find some flying away I next take a closer look for caterpillars and their webbed cocoons. As I’ve mentioned before the best product on the market at the moment is Delfin by Andermatt Biogarten. This product is a drench which must be sprayed onto the shrubs in two parts, two to three weeks apart. Please think carefully before you plant box, while adding structure and form to the garden it now also brings significant maintenance.
Knowing that I would be absent from my garden for a month over the summer I knew planting salads would be a waste of time and energy. I decided therefore to sacrifice a couple of my veggie beds to late summer blooming cut flowers, it was such a good idea. In the place of batavia and romaine I planted cosmos, dahlias and zinnias. I have been thrilled with the results and have been merrily picking flowers for the house every few days. I am now totally smitten by dahlias, the colours, the size, the shape and their ability to add some punch to a hand picked bouquet from the garden. I’ll be heading to Morges before the end of the month to see their annual display and taking notes with a mind to be there when they dig up the 2250 tubers at the beginning of November. Dahlias, I’ve found, do very well here, however keep in mind that they will need to be lifted, cleaned and stored for the winter, they will not over-winter in the garden. Given their performance this year I think they might just be worth the effort.
There are so many jobs to think about at this time of year, my favourite however is choosing and planting bulbs. I love putting in a little work in October and reaping the benefits in the dark days of early spring when colourful bulbs put a smile on my face. All the garden centres and DIY shops are filled with bulbs right now so off you go and fill your baskets.
About to embark on our eighth hectic years of regular classes, Hester and I have decided to take the Swiss Gardening School in a different direction. While still available for private, one-on-one or group session by appointment we are taking a break from our schedule of classes. Every busy with her media and landscaping activities Hester will publish her first book next April entitled “Gardens Switzerland, Suisse, Schweiz” 52 gardens to visit in Switzerland. I will branch out from blogging and begin to coach individual amateur gardeners on a personal basis at their homes.
As ever there is always plenty to do to keep busy in the garden.