By the start of September, most children are back at school and most adults are back at work - "normal" life returns. While you were away on holiday, who cared for your garden? Here you will learn about half a dozen things which are important for your "green living room" at this time of year.
Tips for your garden in late summer
Many flowerbed and pot plants have usually had a blooming phase in August and may now be starting up again slowly. For petunias, for example, it may be helpful to encourage them to grow again and thus to form new buds by pruning them. But it is even more important to give them enough nutrients now so that they bloom and grow lushly later on. After all, this is an important time: During your holiday your plants may not have been given liquid fertiliser. And even long-term fertilisers are frequently used up by now, although - theoretically - they should easily last until September or October. Why? Warm and damp weather releases the fertiliser more quickly than planned - and it is therefore used up by the plants. You can recognise a lack of nutrients if plants fail to bloom and by atypical light green leaves, which are often accompanied by the yellowing of the lower leaves even on plants which are not too dry. Regular liquid feed acts as a first aid measure and can be combined with coarse fertiliser. Once summer flowers are no longer attractive enough to make it worth caring for them, they can be replaced by later summer/autumn ones: Heathers, checkerberries, raised shrubs, chrysanthemums, grasses, gentians and so on offer a rich range of design options to surround your house.
You may now find fallen fruit beneath apple trees. There are various things you can do with them. Fruit which is nearly ripe can be used in the kitchen if you make the effort to remove any damaged parts. Fruit which cannot be used should be raked up and disposed off - ideally with organic rubbish. If you dispose of such fruit on your compost heap, you will attract wasps. Worm-eaten apples also hide small butterfly caterpillars such as those of winter moths which spend the winter in the ground; in spring, the females climb towards the apple blossoms to infect the fruit for the coming year. So that the caterpillars and, later on, the pupae do not spend the winter in your compost heap, it is better to dispose of fallen fruit with organic rubbish. As an alternative, you can dig a hole two spades' deep and bury the fruit. After harvesting, check plum and damson trees to ensure that you have removed all of the remaining mouldy fruit. They contain thousands of fungus spores which could gain a hold on your fruit again in the coming year.
The breeding season of garden birds has now definitely passed, so you should clear old nests from nesting boxes. This removes parasites which would like to spend the winter there as well as creating new breeding space for the spring. Old nests in decorative bushes and trees should also be removed completely because new inhabitants will not move into them. When clearing nesting boxes, make sure that you do not destroy any that are home to dormice. In protected locations, you can now hang up bat boxes so that noctule and lesser horseshoe bats etc. can find a winter refuge even at this early stage.
It is also time to pay attention to your lawn again. To get it through the winter you should use a special autumn fertiliser. This has additional nitrogen and potassium among the nutrients. However, the fertiliser is designed so that the flow of nitrogen is very slow to ensure that it is not washed out in the wet winter phase, as this would be of no benefit. For this reason, you should not use spring or summer fertiliser for autumn or winter care. The potassium in the fertiliser enables the grass to withstand hard frosts and the slow nitrogen emission ensures that the lawn receives sufficient nitrogen and is in a position to flourish when spring arrives. The fertiliser often also contains iron, which makes the grass nice and green and keeps it that way. To apply autumn lawn fertiliser, it is best to choose a dry day before scheduled rain, since the rain can then wash the fertiliser down to the roots immediately.
You are sure to have harvested as much as possible from your vegetable bed before going on holiday so that nothing could rot during your absence. This makes it all the more important to use the remaining late summer and early autumn weeks to plant fresh vegetables and herbs. You can still sow herbs such as borage, garden cress, Indian cress and dill as well as vegetables such as spinach, saltbush, autumn radishes, lamb's lettuce and lettuce. Others, such as kohlrabi, endive, and autumn and winter lettuces can still go into the bed - not as seeds but as bought-in plants.
However, the nicest type of garden work at this time is surely planting flower bulbs. After all, the small, brown bulbs represent a promise of flowers for the coming spring. When buying bulbs, ensure that you buy relatively large ones as they will bloom better. The cheapest offers often tend to be for smaller bulbs. If you may have a problem with voles, which is often the case on the edge of villages and in rural areas, it is best to put the bulbs into plant covers to protect them from being eaten. Otherwise, you are simply laying out winter food for the voles. A rule of thumb for the depth of bulbs (measured from the tip not the base): The planting depth should be double the height of the bulb. If you plant your bulbs in pots rather than beds, you can also use the sandwich method and position different types above each other in layers, e.g. narcissus at the bottom, then mini tulips, then hyacinths and then winter bulbs again. If you coordinate the flowering times of the various types of flower (note the instructions), the individual layers blossom immediately after each other to create a firework-like display. By the way, you can also achieve a long flowering period with a single bulb type and species by planting the bulbs in two to four sets at an interval of ten to fourteen days.