How to tidy up an unruly garden | Alys Fowler

How to tidy up an unruly garden | Alys Fowler

A little judicious pruning and deadleafing goes a long way towards treating weather-battered plants

Rain, wind, sun, rain, wind, sun: this summer’s varied weather has led to a lot of lank growth, which means things are flopping all over the place, or running amok. I certainly have some geraniums intent on taking over the world. Right now, these plants, whether in a window box or a flowerbed, often need a gentle tending to so that your plot can gracefully recline in early autumn with dignity.

It can be daunting to know where to start when your garden starts to take on a life of its own. Don’t panic. First, brew a cuppa and take a proper look at the whole space, in full: what do you want to highlight; what should be thinned; what needs to go completely? Then, I work in sweeps. First, I go through and stake anything that needs a helping hand – often it’s the tall stuff, such as sunflowers, asters, dahlias and herb fennel. Then I deadleaf anything that is scorched, rotting or too tattered, particularly large-leafed plants, such as courgettes, brassicas or rhubarb, that have older leaves sitting on the surface of the soil. A large, rotting leaf is a slug mecca, and by keeping the base of the plant free you can eliminate a lot of damage.

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