By Colin Evans
Ferns are ideal for dark and shaded areas in the garden
The feel of early autumn hangs in the air both in the mornings and evenings now and the freshness is telling us the summer is coming to an end.
Still, it does mean we can look forward to some extra work in the garden.
Even though the days are getting shorter and not quite so hot don't fall into the trap of neglecting watering, especially on hanging baskets and other containers.
When the sun comes through the clouds it is still reasonably hot.
Make sure the vegetables and fruit are looked after too by adding some liquid feed to the water.
The weeds are still making growth so it is important to get them hoed off as soon as you spot them and weeds with flower heads will soon turn to seed which will spread over the borders ready to invade the garden next season.
Plant of the Week
Hardy deciduous ferns are ideal for dark and shaded areas in the garden.
They will also, given the right conditions, thrive in pots too especially if they are well watered on a regular basis. This group of ferns, as the name suggests will lose all the foliage after the first frosts.
However, it is important to leave the old debris over the crown of the plant to protect it from the winter weather and as spring approaches and the new fronds begin to appear, the old fronds can be removed to let in light and air. The most stunning variety is one called Japanese Painted Fern which has creamy pink foliage.
Grapes make a good cover plant if you need to camouflage walls and fences, although they will thrive if planted in a greenhouse. Contrary to popular belief, grapes are not difficult to grow.
Just remember to keep the root system cool and the foliage warm and the vine will make rapid growth. Westerly or south westerly spots are the best and grape vines can be grown in the open ground or successfully in pots as well.
The best varieties are Black Hamburgh which is a indoor type and Rondo which will grow happily outside and will produce sweet white grapes.
Grapes will thrive if planted in a greenhouse
Gourmet mushrooms are a bit of a novelty but anyone can get a good crop from the selection on offer. Nurseries now are offering the chance to grow you own crops at home and it is worth a try because it is not difficult.
The kits can be obtained either at the garden centres or by sending for them in the post from adverts in gardening magazines.
The cultural instructions supplied with each kit are very good but in a nutshell, you are supplied with little wooden dowels which have been impregnated with the spawn and you simply give them the right conditions and soon you will be picking varieties like Oyster and Shiitake.
Many summer flowering clematis will have flowered by now so prune back invasive growth by about half. If the plants are growing along a fence or wall and are tending, as most clematis do, to make upward growth then train the main stems horizontally.
This helps to slow the upward rate of growth and means the flowers will be better next year as they will be supported by sturdier stems. Once pruned and trained, a handful of sulphate of potash should be spread at the base of the plant to boost growth ready for next spring.