August is traditionally the holiday season; the time to put your feet up and reap the rewards of your hard work in the early part of the year. It’s also the time when the garden can begin to look a little exhausted so it is worth keeping on top of some of the routine jobs to keep your borders looking lush and your crops healthy.
In the West Country we have been enjoying hot, dry weather; if this continues through August then watering will be key to keeping pots and borders looking good and the vegetable garden productive; a really good soak is better than frequent light sprinkling. If you are going away for a few days then a long evening session of watering before you go and a moisture retaining mulch around the roots will help to prevent things drying out quickly. Place pots in a shady spot or even a shallow paddling pool! The Big Drippa is an economical way to keep your greenhouse and pots happy.
Deadheading is relaxing and worthwhile in the garden in August – here we are enjoying a second flush of the beautiful Madame Alfred Carriere rose – the flowers are more pink this late in the season, but just as fragrant. Look out for repeat flowering rose varieties to enjoy roses right through until Autumn.
Pick Sweet Peas often to keep the flowers coming – with luck you’ll enjoy a daily fragrant bunch for your desk, bedside or to give to friends or neighbours . Continue to tie the stems in to encourage straight vertical flowers. Our colourful Snip Its are the perfect tool for the job!
The ‘hot’ colours of Helenium and Crocisima are complemented by the vibrant tropical blue of Agapanthus and Verbena Bonariensis and grasses such as Stipa and Molinia can bring texture and movement.
Late summer is also a time to start thinking about your plans for next year. As you relax in the shade this month, take the opportunity to make some notes of planting that might extend the flowering season in future years.
Is there an area of your garden that looks bare or lacks interest in August? Is there a late flowering clematis that could bring some welcome colour to your garden structures next year?
Many perennials have early, mid and late flowering varieties; combining foxglove, lupins and penstemons, for example, can provide vertical interest in the border from early summer to Autumn.
Hardy Geraniums are great for ground cover and can be refreshed mid season by cutting back hard to encourage abundant regrowth of foliage and flowers in August; Lamium, Nepeta and Geum will also respond well to this approach.
A few tasks for August:
- Trim hedges now that birds have finished nesting
- Prune rambling roses after flowering. Use rose ties to secure the plants to an arch or pergola.
- Trim lavender back to the old wood after the flowers have faded and the bees have had their fill.
- Prune wisteria – remove all of this summer’s growth back to six leaves ready for a second prune in February
- Prune Pyracantha so expose the fattening berries ready for a vivid winter display.
- Collect ripening seed from plants you wish to propagate - home harvested seeds can also make simple and thoughtful presents.
- Take softwood and semi-ripe cuttings of favourite perennials in case you lose any over the winter - Penstemons, Salvias,Fuchsias and Pelargoniums all propagate readily.
- Raise the blades on your mower if the weather is hot and dry.
In the Kitchen Garden:
- If you have espalier or trained trees now is the chance to summer prune - plums are less at risk from silver leaf when pruned at this time of year.
- Cut summer-flowering raspberries to the base of fruiting stems, tying in new canes to their supports for next year. Summer prune the side shoots of gooseberries and redcurrants to 5-6 leaves to encourage fruiting spurs.
- Enjoy the abundance of soft fruit this month – if the birds are getting to them first then consider investing in a fruit cage for next year.
- Lift and dry onions - If the weather’s fine, leave onions on the soil’s surface to fully dry
- Cut and dry herbs for winter use.