In August there’s always something to be doing in the garden, whether it’s pruning, tidying or sowing. After our recent spells of heat and rain, the garden may need some TLC. Here are our top gardening tasks for August.
If time is limited in the garden this month, here are our Top Five tips:
1) Trim hedges, particularly evergreens and conifers.
2) Regularly thin aquatic plants.
3) Trim Lavender plants to keep them compact.
4) Lift Onions, shallots and garlic.
5) Pick early variety apples.
If you have a little more time to spare…
BEDS AND BORDERS
August is a good month to trim hedges, particularly evergreens and conifers, so that any subsequent regrowth can harden before winter. Use a string line to get edges straight. You might also need to recruit a tree surgeon before the autumn gales arrive to remove any tree branches that look unsafe.
Collect seeds from ripe seed heads, dry the seed if necessary on kitchen paper, and then store them in labelled empty film canisters, envelopes or paper bags. Poppies are copious seeders, pull most of them up before they set thousands of seeds and you’re faced with the chore of removing masses of tiny seedlings next spring.
Trim your Lavender plants after they’ve finished flowering to keep them compact.
Take cuttings of your favourite tender perennials such as Pelargoniums and Fuchsia to propagate them for next year.
Dead-head Lilies for a better flower display next year.
As your Penstemon flowers fade, cut them back to just above a leaf to encourage more flowers.
Mow wildflower meadows now to help scatter the seeds.
Keep on top of weeds as they compete with your crops for nutrients and water.
Take lots of photos of your garden now if you want to rearrange it in winter – it’s much easier to do this if you have a reference point.
Turn the compost in your compost bins every month to keep it well aerated and to speed up decomposition.
Hedges can be given a final trim now before they stop growing.
Water plants thoroughly when needed instead of every day. Thorough watering supports plants for up 14 days, while merely wetting the surface wastes water, encourages weeds and can lead to surface rooting making the plants more vulnerable.
Regularly thin aquatic plants, as they will spread very rapidly in warm weather. Cut off any large water lily leaves that hide the flowers so that their full beauty can be revealed and new buds are encouraged to develop.
Keep bird baths topped up with water.
Lift, onions, shallots and garlic when the leaves have gone brown and fallen over. On a dry day, leave them out to dry in the sun before moving them to a shed or greenhouse to store on racks until their skins go dry. Start to pick cobs of sweetcorn when the tassels on the ends wither and die back and the kernels are firm. Break the whole cob off at the stem and continue harvesting into September. Lift and store carrots too, but parsnips can stay in the ground a little longer as they are usually improved by early frosts.
The earlier apple varieties will now be ready for picking. Check them daily by gently lifting each apple – if it comes away easily after a gentle twist of the stalk, it is ready for picking. Timing is crucial so pick the crop before it falls itself and is damaged or eaten by birds.
Pinch out the tips of your runner bean plants once they reach the top of their support. This encourages side-shooting and more beans at a manageable height for picking.
Spring-sown carrots and beetroot will be ready to harvest now although they can be left in the ground to keep growing.
Continue to harvest second early potatoes now – perfect for salads!
Start harvesting your maincrop potatoes as the leaves yellow and die back. Try storing your potatoes in hessian sacks which exclude light but allow adequate ventilation.
Don’t worry if your lawn is looking brown, the autumn rains will soon make it green again.
Don’t feed your lawn with a high-nitrogen fertiliser now as this will encourage lots of lush new growth which is easily damaged by autumn weather.
Lawn growth slows down in late summer so raise the cutting height of your lawn mower to help the grass cope.
If you’re planning on laying a new lawn this autumn, prepare the area now to give it time to settle. This also allows weeds to germinate so you can clear the area thoroughly before planting.
Recut any lawn edges if needed. Try installing lawn edging to make future maintenance easier.
If your lawn is infested by ants, brush out the nests on a dry day. Always brush them away before mowing.
IN THE GREENHOUSE
Pinch out the tops of side shoots of any cucumbers growing in the greenhouse to a couple of leaves beyond any developing fruits. Remember to pick any cucumbers regularly, as leaving old fruit on plants delays further flowering.
In season this month: Apples, Aubergines, Beetroot, Blackberries, Carrots, Courgettes/marrows, French Beans, Garlic, Lettuce, Onions, Plums, Raspberries, Runner beans, Salad leaves, Tomatoes, Watercress