Thanks to our newly installed weather station on the trial ground, we can report that a temperature of 31.3°C was recorded here at Kentford on Wednesday, 24 August - the hottest day of our year so far. Our annual gardening media open day has been and gone, and we were flattered by the many kind comments we had on the quality of the plants grown by trials manager Brian and his very small team. One journalist remarked it was the best trial he had seen in 25 years of visiting trial grounds.
In mid July Brian was rather concerned about the quality of the plants on the trial; for quite a while they looked unpromising, but the turning-point came when he gave three applications of a seaweed-based feed to all the vegetables and flowers on the trial ground; these feeds were applied as a very fine mist so plants took it up rapidly, but without flowers getting marked. We think it's actually more due to Brian having that 'magic touch' with plants!
By the end of the month some bedding and container plants will be starting to 'go over' and no longer look their best. While they provide a little colour for a little longer, now is the time to order spring bedding plants and spring-flowering bulbs to replace them as they fade. Violas, pansies (their larger-flowered cousins) and primulas are perfect for spring colour.
Why not try our new and exclusive primrose Amore F1, which really caught our attention when we saw it in trials last spring? It has great 'flower power' and its plentiful butter-yellow blooms have a rose-pink 'frosting'. Amore is ideal for containers, edging paths and borders. If you prefer your primulas rather more old-fashioned, who can resist polyanthus Victoriana Gold Lace? Its rich mahogany petals are each edged with yellow and look as though they have been painted by hand, and each flower also has a yellow centre. We love its antique charm.
Did you know trailing pansies are also available to keep hanging baskets and window boxes colourful for more of the year? Pansy Cool Wave Mixed F1 becomes smothered in a host of colours as it cascades out of container. For the best trailing viola, look no further than Teardrops Mixed F1, which is a really exuberant blend.
We have increased our range of spring-flowering bulbs this autumn, so you are sure to find plenty you like in our latest offer. We especially like the new jonquilla daffodil Baby Boomer, with up to 10 sweetly-scented flowers per stem. Our choice of tulips is our best-ever, and look out for carefully chosen blends to help you colour-theme your spring displays. These combinations of colours work very well together.
If you have been growing biennial flowers (those which flower the year after seed is sown), such as foxgloves, sweet Williams, wallflowers, Canterbury bells and forget-me-nots, September is the time to set them out to their flowering positions. The soil is still warm and they should get established well before the onset of winter to provide some spring and early summer colour in 2017. If you forgot to sow wallflower seed, why not order our bare-root plants for despatch to you from mid October onwards? It's the perfect alternative to make sure you have these sweetly scented beauties next spring.
This year's maincrop onions may only have been lifted a few weeks ago, but if you would like an early summer crop next year, now is the time to order sets of over-wintering varieties, such as red-skinned Electric, white-skinned Snowball and golden-skinned Radar. All are certified disease and virus-free and we'll be sending them out around late September ready for immediate planting. We even offer them together in a collection pack, so why not give all three varieties a try?
Shallots are really back in favour, so do try our full-flavoured Griselle, which is highly prized by French cooks, and Jermor, a 'Jersey longue' type. Both are first-rate.
We must put in a good word for garlic too! Autumn really is the best time to plant garlic cloves; we offer only top-quality bulbs grown for us on the Isle of Wight, and therefore sure to thrive in our climate. Choose from 'hardneck' or 'softneck' types, modern or traditional types - whatever your taste in garlic, we are sure to have one for you.
How about growing your own delicious asparagus? It's actually much easier than the old-time gardeners would have us believe. Forget the mystique surrounding this wonderful vegetable. For instance, it does not need to be grown on a raised bed and, once planted, it could be supplying you with tender spears every May and June for 20 years, so it is a really worthwhile investment.
We offer six varieties of this delicious vegetable - the very best modern breeding can offer - and we start despatching the crowns in mid October. All come with full planting and aftercare instructions, so if you have some space in the veg plot and are wondering what to plant there, asparagus may be the answer. If you already have asparagus, remember to cut down the ferny foliage as it yellows, leaving just 1 inch of stem showing above ground. The fern can be added to the compost heap, while the bed will benefit from a good mulch to help the soil and to suppress weeds.
Fans of winter and spring salads should think about making a sowing of lettuce seed around now. We can recommend Vailan, which is a winter-cropping version of the much-loved Little Gem, but this one needs greenhouse, cold frame or polytunnel protection. Winter Density has been around for years, but it is still one of the best winter-cropping cos varieties - and it is hardy in most areas, so can be grown in the open.
Lift any remaining maincrop potatoes if still in the ground before late blight or slugs start attacking them. Store the tubers somewhere dry, cool, but frost-free, and check them regularly for any damage or rotting. Our heavy duty potato sacks are perfect for keeping them in good condition; they are breathable, re-usable and long-lasting.
Squashes should be harvested now too, before the weather turns wet and cold. Cut them with a sharp knife or secateurs with just an inch or two of stem remaining. If you can, leave them for a week or two in a greenhouse or conservatory to help the skins 'cure', after which they can be stored cool and dry for many weeks.
As crops are cleared, it's well worth sowing a 'green manure' on any ground which will be left unused over winter. These are plant varieties specifically chosen for their ability to fix nitrogen or to break up heavy or compacted soil. Grown over winter, they'll also help to suppress weed growth and will prevent heavy rains from leeching nutrients from the soil. Sow a green manure now, dig the foliage in during late Winter and your crops will benefit from increased nutrient levels and better soil structure once the spring growing season arrives.