August in the garden is one of my favourite times of year. Everything is so green and lush, particularly after all the recent rain. The flowers are blooming, and the fruit and veg are also ripening fast. As any readers who follow me on Instagram will know, I looooooove picking flowers from our garden, but there are also plenty of late summer jobs to be done…
This is such an important job, I normally spend 20 minutes a day and probably an hour at the weekend doing it. Deadheading serves two purposes. Firstly, it tidies up the plant by getting rid of ugly dead brown flowers and emerging seed pods. Secondly, it encourages the plant to produce new flowers again.
I find deadheading very therapeutic because it makes me slow down – it’s not something I can do without concentrating. Current candidates include: scabious, coreopsis, poppies, cornflowers, sunflowers, and buddleia. I’ve been leaving the sunflower heads out to dry so the birds can eat the seeds later in the year when food is scarce. Deadheading applies to herb window boxes too – if you let your mint, rosemary or thyme run to flower then although they look pretty, they’re not much use for cooking.
August pruning is up there with deadheading. Plants like lavender and some roses are going over now so they can be cut back hard. And this can even stimulate a second flush of flowers. But pruning can also be done to reshape your plants, for example, if they are getting too leggy or trailing. Summer fruiting raspberries can be cut back too – just make sure you cut back this year’s brown canes and not the new green growth, which is where next year’s fruit crop will grow.
Tomatoes are beginning to ripen now so it’s a good idea to prune off the bottom leaves and let light and air get to the fruit. As more tomatoes ripen, prune off more leaves higher up the plant until you’re left with a stem and branches with fruit but no leaves. Yes, it looks odd, but you’ll end up with more red tomatoes than green ones. And as I hate green tomato chutney, it’s a mantra I always follow.
TAKING CUTTINGS/COLLECTING SEEDS
Some plants can be propagated by cuttings in August. Good candidates are pelargoniums (geraniums), hydrangea, and verbena. Although almost any plant will start rooting if you take a non-flowering cutting, strip off most of the leaves, pop it into some compost, and keep it well watered. You’ve nothing to lose, so why not try it?
And August is the perfect time to collect seeds from your favourites. As you deadhead plants like foxgloves, lunaria (honesty) poppies, aquilegias, pop the seed heads into an envelope, seal and label it. Then you can either sow them straight away or at a time of your choosing. Either way, you’ve got a free supply of potential new plants.
If you want strong, healthy flowers, you can get a head start now by sowing seeds directly into the warm soil. The young plants can put down strong roots so, although any top growth will probably die off in the winter frosts, they’ll zip away again much more quickly in the spring.
Other seeds to sow in August include salads, radishes, parsley and chervil. These can be harvested through the autumn and, in some cases, right through winter. This year I’m going to try growing potatoes in time for harvesting at Christmas. Potato tubers can be grown either in the ground or, if you don’t have room, in a bag. Either way, there’s nothing quite like the taste of your own freshly picked potatoes.
Another job that is never done. Bindweed is a particular problem in parts of my garden and, so far, nothing I’ve tried has eradicated it completely, grrrr. But other weeds such as thistle, dandelion, nettle, dock, and hairy bittercress (yes, really!) all need to be culled on regular basis too.
ORDERING SPRING/SUMMER BULBS
This is an evening job, with a large glass of Mateus Rose to hand. My catalogues of choice are Sarah Raven and Gee Tee, both of whom have a fabulous selection of bulbs and corms. My husband says we don’t have any room left in our garden as I’ve been planting more and more spring and summer bulbs and corms each year – over 1,000 last autumn – but I know I can always find space for a few more!
So this is my August in the garden. Do you recognise any of my jobs? Are there any you do that I haven’t mentioned? Let me know!
A GUEST BLOG BY LISA MCLACHLAN.
Visit her website: www.lisasnotebook.com.