As the evenings draw in and temperatures fall, now is the time to think of - manure!
To give next year's vegetables the best possible start in life, order a load of composted manure. Then, once you have cleared the vegetable bed and the soil temperature has fallen to winter levels (probably in November or so - depends on the weather of course) spread a layer of about 6 inches thickness all over the bed and just leave it over the winter. The manure will slowly settle in to the soil, so that, when it is workable again in spring, you can easily dig it in and then plant your vegetables.
It is important to wait until the temperatures have dropped though, otherwise the nutrients will leach away before they have a chance to get absorbed by the soil.
Apart from the nutrient value of organic matter like manure, it also acts as a mulch and holds down the weeds - at least for a while. But weeding the vegetable patch is a task that will never fully go away!
St Swithun’s day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St Swithun’s day if thou be fair
For forty days ‘twill rain nae mare
Well, 15 July this year certainly was dry and fine, but by now, most gardeners are probably hoping that the old rhyme is totally wrong. It’s been a stressful time for gardens but, even though lawns look particularly brown and sorry for themselves, they will quickly recover. Best to leave them alone now and make sure to give them some extra scarifying and top-dressing care in September, when the forty days of drought should be over.
Now would be a good time to plant some autumn-flowering bulbs – for example the lovely autumn crocuses (Colchicum autumnale) or the blue-violet Crocus speciosus. They like well-drained soil and many gardeners like to plant them in soil with some grit content. Gardenscape provides various standard mixes of topsoil, compost and grit and are also happy to create a custom mix to your own requirements – just ask!
Sternbergia (also known as winter daffodil) is another candidate for planting now. It will provide bright yellow flowers on a contrasting background of dark green leaves – just the sort of tonic you might need when the nights draw in.
Bearded irises like a dry summer, so they should be delighted with this year. They can be planted between now and October and, if you have a clump that has been in place for three or four years, it can be divided now that its main flowering is over.
Otherwise, just keep watering those containers, but be sensible and make the most of scarce water resources by watering in the evenings, to minimise losses by evaporation. Also, the plants will prefer a good drenching every now and then to a constant dribble, which encourages roots to feel their way upwards where they risk drying out.
And don’t worry too much about St. Swithun (or Swithin). It’s probably just an old superstition anyway...