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Luton Hoo’s Mary Baker on the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer

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In the hazy heat of mid-summer, there can seem little to do in the garden but water it and enjoy the scents, sounds and colours.

Of course, if you have vegetables and fruit then you will be busy picking, and don’t forget to record what you enjoyed growing and eating, so that you remember for the seed order in the winter. If you have an opportunity for propagation, then now is the time to look around your garden and see what seeds you might like to save.

Annual seed heads are easy to collect: nigella, marigolds, nasturtium, poppies, and so on, and need to be thoroughly dry before collection and kept so until you sow them next year. You can collect the seeds of tomatoes, cucumbers, squashes, and indeed any seed bearing plant but there will be some that require quite specialised treatment before they will germinate.

As for shrubs where the seeds are not so accessible, you can take good cuttings this time of year. For a novice it can be frustrating and it does take patience and a willingness to accept that some cuttings will die – so take plenty and celebrate the ones that take! Look for firm, fresh shoots which should be obvious – if the shrub doesn’t have any, don’t use it – and cut just under a leaf to give you a piece approx. 10 cm long.

Strip the leaves off the bottom half and place in firm damp compost. The compost should be a mix of half potting compost and half horticultural grit but you can try with just compost if you can’t get horticultural grit.

Don’t use flowering shoots as the flowers are energy drainers. Place a propagating lid over them or a clear plastic bag (not letting it touch the leaves) which helps keep in the moisture.

You could try taking cuttings from Mock Orange, lavender, and even hydrangeas – but keep an eye out for any shrub that looks in peak condition and give it a go!

 

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