Gardens to tend, children to tend, vegetables to tend, chickens to tend, Olympics to attend, holidays to be had…lets keep this short and sweet this month. So first we have the seasonal jobs I hope they help. Matt gives us a stag beetle bonanza, as you know he is a bonafide biodiversity diva who comes and plays with the Plot (and we so appreciate it) but should really be running a woodland somewhere inspiring a milion people (not just us!!) so enjoy before he realises this and leaves us!! But as well as the wonderful Matt there is the multitalented Catherine. She is much more than just a brilliant gardener she is a fabulous actor who has been a theatre workshop leader for children for a long time and, as it is summertime, she is offering a twist on her usual theatre project and has launched the Crystal Palace Film School and if you are 8-14 there is a week long film making experience just for you…it is going to be set around Crystal Palace filmed by, and with local children and instead of my usual blibber blabber I have popped the flier in below so you can sing it from the rooftops! Please let everyone know so it can be as much fun as possible, also if you would like to offer up your garden for a location please contact Catherine. First time I’ve ever put a non-gardening item in this since we started this newsletter malarky in November 2006! But if you know the Plot you know the wonderful Catherine so I’m sure you’ll understand. Finally let me offer up some days out to inspire and delight.

Seasonal jobs

  • This is the month for relaxing and enjoying the garden. So please get out there and strategically place your deckchair so you can’t see those jobs that need doing, then enjoy a drink in the sun. If you are insisting on doing something then you could tackle these:
  • Prune your evergreen hedges and shrubs for the last time this year.
  • Keep mowing. If you have thin light soil, then now is the time to give your lawn a high phosphate feed.
  • Prune your wisteria. Cut the wispy new growth back to five or six leaves. Make sure that isn’t clambering into your drains or covering your windows.
  • As your plants produce aubergines and courgettes take the time to prop the fruits up on bricks to stop them getting all soggy. This also keeps them out of reach from pests.
  • This is the season that we are throwing mowings onto the compost heap so add some dry newspaper to stop creating a mushy stink.
  • If you have raspberries that finished fruiting, then they are summer varieties and you can cut the canes that gave you the fruit back to the ground. This leaves the new shoots to give you your crop next year.
  • Sow winter spinach outside.
  • Keep cutting off faded flowers.
  • Remember to water vegetable regularly as irregular watering is the most likely cause of vegetables with brown bottoms, fruit just dropping off before they ripen and also fruit splitting.
  • Feed tomatoes. As soon as outdoor tomatoes have made four trusses of flowers, stop them from growing further by pinching out the tip of the main stem.
  • Collect some seed from your garden.
  • If it looks like it might be hot and dry for more than a day then it is a great time to paint your fences, varnish your outdoor furniture and fix greenhouse glass.

Stag nights (Well evenings anyway)
Matts bit

It’s that special time of year again, when the Stag Beetles are out and about and those of us in the South East of London have a fairly good chance of seeing them as that part of the world seems to be a Stag Beetle Hot Spot. Stag beetles spend between 3 and 5 years as larvae, and sometimes up to 6 years if their food is poor quality which in their case means not very decomposed. Stag beetle larvae use less energy digesting highly decomposed wood and so develop more quickly. They then pupate in their final autumn. Pupation lasts some 6 weeks, and then after initially emerging, they over winter up to 50cm underground well away from sub zero temperatures. They surface at some point between May and August and are most active at twilight (crepuscular is the word to describe that!) They then have a matter of weeks to find a territory and defend it using their amazing mandibles (the structures which looks like antlers giving them their name). Once mated, the females seek out dead decaying wood and lay the eggs which take approximately 3 weeks to hatch, and the cycle starts again. These beetles are difficult to miss being up to 7cm long, they do fly albeit slowly and seemingly randomly and are amazing things to look closely at.

Their main predators include domestic cats and corvid birds (magpies and crows), and quite a lot are run over or trodden on, and as is seemingly the case with lots of endangered species, their main threat is habitat loss. If you are lucky enough to see a stag beetle, please record the sighting on the GiGL website.

A day out

Catherines film school project has made me think about tunnels and all things underground. This made me wander Highgate cemetery way. This cemetery is split into the East side where you can visit anytime and then the West side when you need to go on a guided tour and which has the catacombs, you have to ring to book your place. Lets go and marvel how plants can survive in the darkest and dankest conditions. You’ve got to love all those mosses and lichens.

Bermondsey museum has an amazing sounding walking tour into a secret underground chamber…can anything grow down there? I’ve wandered into completely unknown territory here. I’ve never been, I’m not sure if this is garden related, I know it might not really be within my remit but I’m enjoying seeing what lurks beneath London! Let me claw you back with a more garden related offering we could head there on a Saturday night to sample the midnight apothecary held on the rooftop garden, yes the garden.

For something less subterrainian West Dean in West Sussex has a Pear tree tunnel. They are also hosting their Chilli Fiesta at the end of August.

During the 90’s I lived Hackney way and use to wander past the Mole mans house whenever I could. Well it has been sold now and it might well have been demolished…maybe we should go to Haggerstone tube wander through Stonebridge Gardens, up to have a look at the house and have a play in De Beauvoir Square and if it is a Saturday lets pop up to King Henry’s Walk Garden and if we can’t make a Saturday then maybe lets head for Tuesday 14th and go to their ice cream making masterclass – ok not about gardening but we could eat it in their garden so I think it deserves my attention in the name of research!

Mmmm if you are a Crystal Palace officiano (you know who you are) maybe you could pull a string or two and help Catherines film school get a good start by getting access to our many local tunnels? Maybe there are one or two she doesn’t know about? So far the White Hart have said no, and the tunnels under our very own Crystal Palace Park have said no… really I’m sure we can do something about that!! The gauntlet is down – can you help?