GINA PARKINSON considers the effects of heavy summer rain and the new beds she wants to make near the house

THERE are no worries about watering the garden for the moment with the heavy rain of the past number of days. Last Saturday morning I measured 10 centimetres of water in the wheelbarrow which had been left upright by accident 24 hours previously.

A lot of work is being done in our garden to change the layout, so the area by the house is looking a little sorry. Wall shrubs have been severely cut back and some of the larger shrubs in the beds have been uplifted and planted elsewhere.

The plan is to create a long west-facing border down one side of the garden and fill it with the herbaceous perennials and ornamental grasses I love.

So this month I am lifting and temporarily housing the existing plants in the veg garden as it is emptied of produce. This will leave the flower beds clear for their new roles.

Some areas will be grassed over, while other spots will have paving and concrete paths lifted to widen the border.

The soil in these areas will be dug over, weeded and then fed with barrow-loads of compost to try to give some bulk to the sandy soil.

While the beds are looking uninteresting for the moment, the climbers that cover the side of the garage are reaching their peak.

Dark-leafed vine, furry Actinidia and a couple of clematis are growing every which way and have to be attended to regularly to keep them in check.

The vine in particular grows at a fast rate and the stems are heavy with rain after a downpour. The temporary wire support that was put in three summers ago isn’t really enough to support the number of stems this plant would like to produce, so some need to be trimmed off every now and then to keep the whole thing from collapsing (note to self: must put in a permanent support for these plants when they have died back in winter).

This purple vine is a lovely plant with silvery new foliage that grows to hand-sized leaves within weeks. The most mature plants take on a beautiful deep, almost black tinge that echoes the colour of a clematis growing through. This is possibly a viticella as the single blooms appear in mid to late summer and are quite small. Even smaller are the tiny fragrant blooms of Clematis flammula, whose delicate blooms and foliage are perfect for growing through the beefier growth of the other plants on this wall.

The flowers are just beginning to appear and a sunny August day will attract scores of hoverflies to their pollen which acts as a magnet to these beneficial insects.


In the veg garden

COURGETTES are loving this weather and we are getting a good harvest of the yellow variety planted this year. Runner beans and climbing French beans are also doing well, despite their early trial by slug.

However, our potato crop is very disappointing.

Many of the plants failed to flower and blight seems to have appeared, leaving the foliage firstly spotted with brown patches and eventually dying away completely. The potatoes lifted so far are clear of disease, firm and delicious, although they are small and not very numerous.

We grew Charlotte and Sarpo Mira, the former usually a very reliable all rounder, the latter supposedly resistant to disease as we had a small problem with blight last summer.

Blight will often occur in warm, damp summers and can affect potatoes and tomatoes. On potatoes the spores of the fungus Phytophthora infestans causes brown patches on the foliage which eventually spread down to the tubers causing reddish patches on the flesh and a foul odour.

If blight is suspected the affected foliage should be cut down completely and burnt or fully composted. The spores over-winter on live foliage and are then spread on the wind the following year. So as long as affected foliage is completely broken down in the compost pile, it should be safe to put on the home heap.

If in doubt put it in the green bin for composting on the council site. However, do not compost affected or unused tubers as they are likely to sprout and become a fungus carrier.

One of the commonest ways for blight to spread is on potatoes missed at harvest and left in the soil. These are sometimes called volunteer potatoes and can host the fungus which spreads on the wind to the new crop. It is almost impossible not to leave potatoes in the soil during harvest, but digging up rogue spuds as soon as they appear in spring will help minimise the risk of blight.


Open gardens


In aid of the National Gardens Scheme.

Cold Cotes, Cold Cotes Road, near Kettlesing, HG3 2LW, seven miles west of Harrogate off the A59. Large garden planted for year-round interest with Oudolf inspired borders at their peak in late summer. There is also a Chatto influenced woodland garden, formal and bog gardens and streamside walk. Open every Saturday in August and September 11am-5pm, admission £3.50.

6, Fulwith Avenue, Harrogate, HG2 9HR off the A61 Harrogate- Leeds road. Small town garden filled with late summer colour and texture highlighted by features including a wall fountain, gothic folly, waterfall and Japanese topiary. Open 1pm-5pm, admission £2.50. Also open tomorrow 12pm-4pm.


Gardening TV and radio


6.45am, BBC2, Alan Titchmarsh’s Garden Secrets. A visit to Biddulph Grange in Staffordshire.

8am, BBC Radio Humberside, The Great Outdoors. With Blair Jacobs and Doug Stewart.

9am, BBC Radio York, Julia Lewis.

9am, BBC Radio Leeds, Tim Crowther with Joe Maiden.

2pm, BBC R4, Gardeners’ Question Time. Eric Robson is in the chair from the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk.


3pm, BBC R4, Gardeners’ Question Time. Panellists Matt Biggs, Anne Swithinbank, Christine Walkden and chairman Eric Robson are in Cheshire this week.

9.30pm, BBC2, Gardeners’ World. Monty and Carol are out and about this week with a visit to RHS Hyde Hall in Essex and RHS Wisley in Surrey.