Well summer is truly here – although all the rain has been a bit too much for many of us! The good thing about plants is that they almost always revive. Damaged plants can be cut back and fertilised and they will shoot out – and there is still plenty of good growing weather.
FERTILSER: Not a bad idea to give those citrus plants a top up. Fertilise those summer annuals just to give them an extra kick along.
ANNUALS: If you planted Petunias for a Christmas display they may be starting to get a bit lanky. If you cut them back now and feed them with some liquid fertiliser, you will get another good display before winter. Petunias have a very weak root system so when cutting them back be careful not to damage their roots.
LAWNS: Steady as they go - if they have browned off with the hot weather they will recover without the need to fertilise.
TREES AND SHRUBS: Time to just do a light prune on those shrubs that have finished flowering – just to get them in shape eg, Azaleas and Plumbago.
IN THE VEGETABLE PATCH Powdery Mildew could still be a problem particularly on Pumpkin vines, Cucumber, Beans, and Peas. Mildew is a fungus so most fungicides will help control it. You should remove affected leaves as soon as you see them and this will help reduce the spread. Also, the warmer moist weather brings out pests like thrips, white fly, mites and scale so keep an eye out for them. There is still time to put another crop of carrots in before winter and if you can get hold of brussel sprouts, plant them now you will get some good growth before winter comes – and a better crop.
IN THE HERB GARDEN: Let’s have a close look at Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
DESCRIPTION: Sweet Basil is a deliciously aromatic annual herb that grows to about 70cm. The stem is soft and succulent and the leaves are bright green. Small white to purple flowers appear in autumn. There are many forms of basil including Bush Basil (Ocimum minimum), Thai Basil (Ocimum basilicum), Greek Basil (Ocimum obovatum), and cultivars such as the purple-leafed ‘Dark Opal’, ‘Tangy Lemon’ and ‘Spicy Globe’.
CULTIVATION: Sow seeds in November or early December, or purchase seedlings. Choose the sunniest part of the garden. Soil should be light and well-drained. Add a little lime when the bed is being prepared. As seedlings grow, pinch out regularly to create a compact plant. Harvesting the leaves regularly for culinary use will also keep the plants nice and bushy. If drying, harvest before the plants flower in autumn.
USES: Basil is a most delicious herb, especially teamed with tomatoes. (It also grows well near tomatoes). It lends great flavour to meaty pasta sauces, chicken and vegetable dishes and salads. It is a major ingredient in pesto. The plant emits a wonderful aroma in the garden when watered. As a medicinal remedy it was used to treat maladies of the major organs and to also tone the skin. Sacred Basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum) is a sacred plant of the Hindus and offerings of basil leaves in Hindu homes are believed to protect the family.
ORGANIC TIP: Garlic Spray. This can be useful for aphids and caterpillars. It can be purchased commercially, but it is easy to make at home. Crush some garlic, soak for several days in a small amount of liquid paraffin, mix with water (about 600ml) and a small quantity of soft soap (to enable it to stick to the leaves). Dilute with more water before spraying. Experiment to find out the best strength for any particular application.