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Archives for August 2, 2017

Some oreganos are tasty, others ornamental





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Gardening tips for gardens in August

Garry Winwood of Stone Cross Garden Centre looks at how to help your garden through August.

August is month that everyone thinks of holidays and enjoying spent outdoors. This is the month we appreciate our garden more than ever, but don’t worry if your garden is looking a little exhausted from the heat in July, doing a little careful planting of some new colour and deadheading will encourage further blooms that will continue that summer feeling right into autumn.

Top five must dos this month

– Enjoy the glorious blooms and vibrant colour in the garden

– Water to stop plants drying out

– Feed and deadhead hanging basket plants, repeat flowering perennials and roses to enjoy flowering for longer

– Enjoy your own produce and harvest vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, runner beans and courgettes

– Add extra impact plants, ground cover and colour to your garden.

Plant of the month – the hydrangea

Our plant of the month is an old favourite – it has a reputation of being robust and you will amazed at the impact it will have in your garden. They have amazing flowers with a large variety of colours to choose from. The blooms last for ages, can be picked as cut flowers and are extremely hardy surviving even the worst cold wet winters.

They love moist, well drained soil and a semi shady spot. Feed in late spring or late winter but do not overfeed. When planting choose a spot to allow the plant to grow, dig a hole large enough for the roots to spread out, add fertilizer and mulch around the plants to protect from frost. Water the plant well, but be careful not to over water and you will be rewarded with the most amazing blooms.

Blue Hydrangeas flowers can be obtained and maintained by applying Hydrangea Colourant or Ericaceous Plant Food designed for feeding Rhododendrons and Camelias.

Pink Hydrangeas flowers can have their colour intensified by applying lime to your soil and watering it in. This will reduce the acidity.

White Hydrangea flowers and also the lime green types remain white or lime green irrespective of the pH of the soil. However in the case of Hydrangea paniculata Vanille Fraise they initially show white blooms that gradually change to a light pink as they age.

Bring in texture and foliage – Gardens don’t have to be all about flowers. Texture and foliage keeps a garden interesting throughout the season without too much work. There are so many plants to choose from.

Combining different greens, reds and silvers will make a big impact. Grasses, Acers and Hostas are just a few to name, but don’t forget ferns – they will add texture and are perfect in shaded area. Rockery plants and succulents add more interest and are often over looked but can really transform certain area.

Jobs for this month

Watering – Plants become stressed if not watered sufficiently. This causes poor growth, leaf drop, reduced flowering and makes plants more susceptible to pest and disease attacks. It is important to keep Camelia and Rhododendrons watered as this will help flowering buds for next year to swell.

Get your plants in trim – You can prune climbing plants such as Wisteria and Pyracantha and shrubs such as Hebe and Lavender once they have finished flowering. Hedging plants can be given their last trim of the season. Leave them at your desired winter height as the weather will soon cool down stopping growth.

Continue deadheading – Keep deadheading and feeding your hanging basket and patio pot plants to keep them producing new flowers through well into autumn. Similarly the dead heading of flowering perennials such as Dahlia and Penstemon will prolong their colourful displays.

Add impact – If you have empty spaces in your garden there are many specimen impact shrubs available. They give extra vibrancy to your garden.

Powdery Mildew – Keep a lookout for this fungal disease which appears as a white dusty substance on leaves, stems, fruit and flowers. It causes distorted growth, dieback and looks unsightly. It is possible to spray fungicides to control outbreaks on ornamental plants. However, there is no fungicide available to home gardeners that is safe for use on edible plants. As a preventative measure you should water the plant weekly pooling water at the base of the plants stem so that it drains through to the roots. You can then apply a mulch of well-rotted compost or bark to help to lock in the moisture to the ground. This will reduce stress to your plants. The more stressed the plant is the more likely it is it will be affected by pests and diseases. If the outbreak is limited it is possible to remove the affected shoots to reduce the risk of the mildew spreading. It is best to remove all affected fallen leaves. This will help to prevent the spores over wintering and causing problems again in the spring. These leaves should be disposed of in your council green waste bin.

Roses – If your plant is heavily infected with blackspot spraying is less likely to be effective. You can prune the roses back heavily removing all affected leaves. These should be raked up and disposed of in your council green waste bin.

Lawns – Your lawn will still require weekly mowing at this time of year. However, it is advisable to set mowers to a higher level than at other times of the year to prevent grass from drying out and suffering stress related damage. If you have brown patches in the lawn do not be alarmed. These will often disappear naturally once the autumn rain arrives.

Grow your own

August is a great month for harvesting vegetables such as tomatoes, second early potatoes, carrots, runner beans, sweetcorn and courgettes. Fruit such as autumn raspberries, blackberries cherries and plums will also be ripening and soon ready.

Keep watering and feeding your fruit and vegetables with a fertiliser high in potassium.

Stop tomatoes from growing any higher once they have set five trusses. These are the shoots bearing yellow flowers. You should still continue to remove side shoots. Also do not let them dry out as this will lead to blossom end rot.

Lift onions, garlic and shallots once the top growth has yellowed and dropped over. Leave them to dry off in the sun before storing them in onion bags to prevent mould from developing.

If you have space available in you vegetable plot you can sow beetroot, french beans, carrots, lettuce, radish and green manure. The green manure is grown to be dug into the soil. This helps to produce humus and holds plant nutrients improving the fertility of your soil.

Plant additional herbs to give your garden increased fragrance. It will also spice up your cooking through the winter too. Herbs are low maintenance, easy to grow plants.

Remember to regularly harvest your runner beans, French beans and courgettes. This will mean that the plant continues to produce young tasty produce.

Look out for the runners on strawberries and when you spot them plug them down into the soil. This will create a new plant for you producing fruit from next year.

Citrus fruits can be grown outside if the temperature at night is above 5oC. However, they are extremely hungry individuals and will require weekly feeding with specific citrus foods or high nitrogen fertilisers.

Stone Cross Garden Centre, Dittons Road, Stone Cross, Pevensey.

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Tips for keeping gardens hydrated during the heat wave

Witnesses said the teen seemed fidgety and anxious throughout the seven-hour flight and that by the time passengers realized the door had been opened, he was already on the ground, running.

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FROM THE GARDEN: Tips for growing your own watermelons

Sometimes I forget how much I love watermelon. Few things are more evocative of childhood summers than a slice of this iconic fruit served ice-cold with a sprinkling of salt. 

You might be surprised to know how easy it is to grow watermelons in pots. The most important consideration is choosing the right sized container. Rachel and I have found that five-gallon containers are enough to support two vines, producing two 10-pound watermelons each. The nursery tag or seed packet will tell you the size of the fruit at maturity. Larger fruits would need to be grown in individual containers. 

We like to grow most of our garden crops in containers because of the convenience. There’s no need for tilling or amending the topsoil. You can use a pre-packaged potting mix or simply add compost to well-rotted manure. At the end of the growing season we discard the vines and add the mix to our raised beds.                           

Watermelons are members of the cucurbit family, along with cantaloupes, pumpkins, cucumbers and squash. These annual fruits are native to Africa, but are cultivated throughout the world. They require daytime temperatures between 80 to 90 degrees in order to thrive. 

They shouldn’t be planted until late spring because they have no tolerance for frost. Don’t wait too long to get them started. Watermelons need a long growing season, typically 80 to 100 days to reach maturity. Watermelons only ripen on the vine. If picked too soon, you’ll be stuck with a poor melon. 

Place the containers where they will receive full sun and make sure they drain well. Give your watermelons plenty of room to sprawl. They can easily spread 15 to 20 feet, even in pots. They don’t put down additional roots as they sprawl, so you can place your containers on any surface. If limited space is an issue, you can train the vines to grow vertically on a balcony or trellis. You’ll need some sort of stretchable material to form a sling to support the weight of the growing fruit. Old pantyhose are well-suited for this purpose.    

Watering is the trickiest thing about growing melons in containers. As the fruits are developing, they’ll need lots of water. Ideally, water twice a day until the watermelons are the size of a baseball and then once a day until mature. As they approach ripeness, reduce watering just enough to keep the soil moist to the touch. This will help to concentrate the sweetness. Over-watering produces bland tasting fruit.   

As your watermelons grow, keep them from direct contact with the soil. This will help reduce rotting and fungal disease. Rachel and I let them rest on flat rocks or pieces of wood. 

Judging ripeness can also be tricky. A deep-pitched thud when thumped is a good indication of ripeness. It takes a little bit of practice to get the hang of it. Another effective way to judge ripeness is to monitor the part of the rind that rests on the ground. It will turn from pale green or white to a more creamy yellow. 

Lastly, the spirally tendril closest to the stem will dry up and even fall off. This isn’t the most accurate way to judge ripeness, but combined with one of the other two, it’s a good indication. 

Nothing is more refreshing than a homegrown watermelon on a hot summer day.

Rachel and Ivan Minnis are avid gardeners. They live in Leavenworth. For more information, visit The Minnis Rose Garden on Facebook. Contact them at


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Summer gardening tips

For Gardeners in the Heat of Summer

1. Mulch and water: Your vegetable garden, landscape, flowerbeds and trees need some help to make it through this torrid month. Mulch generously, and water deeply.

2. Lawn care: Your grass also needs deep, infrequent watering (5 day schedule) and keep the cutting height for your lawnmower as high as possible. This will help shade the roots and conserve water.

3. Vegetables: This is the month to start sweet corn, okra, snap beans, cream peas and black-eyed peas from seed. Because the first frost (on average Nov. 27) is likely to occur within 120 days, use transplants for your peppers and tomatoes. During the second half of this month, plant your broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts.

4. Survive! While it is nice of you to nurse your plants through this brutal month, it is perhaps even more important that you look after yourself. Here are three gardening rules that you must follow!  A. Garden early in the morning. B. Wear effective sunscreen and a large brimmed hat. C. Drink gallons of water!

For the Birds in the Heat of Summer

1. Water: Set up a birdbath in your garden. Keep it topped up every day, and clean once a week. Keep the area nearby clear, so that predatory cats have nowhere to hide.

2. Food: Help our feathered friends survive with good quality seeds. Buy in bulk from feed stores to save money.

3. Hummingbirds: Mix 4 parts water to 1 part sugar and place in a feeder, and enjoy the magic of the visiting hummers. Make sure your feeder is red (their favorite color), and you can tie a red ribbon nearby to help them find their way.

4. Brush piles: While out in the yard, create little brush piles here and there out of twigs and branches. This will protect the birds so they can feed on the ground, and if a cat appears or a hawk swoops down, they’ll have somewhere to retreat.

5. Native landscapes: Our native birds grew up with native berries, and they are the best form of nourishment. Keep this in mind when shopping for plants.  Sunflowers, salvias, yaupon holly, possum haw holly, agarita, coral berry, American beautyberry and Turks caps are all good choices. (More details at

Happy gardening everyone!

If you have a question for Chris, send it via email to  Or mail a postcard to It’s About Thyme: 11726 Manchaca Road, Austin, TX 78748

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