The changing of seasons is what adds to the excitement of gardening; however, when it’s that weird, peculiar time when one season hasn’t really ended, yet the following one has already started creeping up, that’s when gardening can become a bit… tricky.
That brings us to August gardening. For many gardeners (professional and novice), August marks the downhill slide into offseason. For a lot of gardens, the time to shine is pretty much over in the month of August. However, it is still possible to enjoy your hard gardening work once summer starts moving into autumn – August weather is often milder than expected (depending on where in the UK you find yourself), and this marks a great time to perk things up after July’s hot weather.
Those plants of yours are tougher than you think, and even though you may not know it, there’s still plenty to do in your garden in the month of August…
A brown lawn in August is nothing to worry about, as those autumn rains are on their way! But don’t feed your lawn with a high-nitrogen fertiliser now, as this will encourage lots of lush new growth, which isn’t usually encouraged for autumn weather.
Keep in mind that lawn growth slows down in late summer. Thus, raise the cutting height of your lawnmower to help the grass cope. And if you’ve been dreaming about laying a new lawn this autumn, start preparing the area now so that it has adequate time to settle. This will also help weeds to germinate so you can carefully clear the area before planting.
If necessary, re-cut any lawn edges in August. And to make future maintenance easier, try installing lawn edging.
Finally, if your lawn is struggling with ants, brush out those nests on a dry day (which should always be done before mowing).
Looking forward to hosting high tea in your conservatory this autumn? Take note of these gardening tasks first…
• Check your plants on a daily basis and water them if the soil is dry.
• Damp your greenhouse/conservatory on hot days. This will increase humidity and discourage those red spider mites.
• On warm days, open those vents, windows and doors.
• To prevent over-heating in sunny weather (yes, it can still happen in August), use blinds or apply shade paint.
• Try hanging sticky traps to get rid of flying pests.
• Take up those fallen leaves and flowers to discourage disease.
After your early summer-flowering shrubs (like philadelphus, ribes and weigela) have blossomed, prune them. This will encourage new growth.
In addition to cutting your shrubs back in shape, be on the lookout for any damaged or dead shoots and cut them out.
• Keep an eye on deadheading bedding plants, sweet peas and roses. And once those dahlia flowers have started to fade, they’ll need to be cut off.
• Many of the traditional English cottage perennials (such as lupins, delphiniums and geraniums) are usually past their golden stages come August. Cut them right back down to let them re-sprout. They may not flower again, but will definitely look so much better!
• August is your last chance to sow annuals like cosmos or nigella in the flower beds.
• To avoid future problems, water and feed everything regularly, especially tomatoes. Be sure to also tie them in to their canes and pinch out the side shoots if required.
• Now is the opportunity for the last sowing of French beans and carrots. Relocate your purple sprouting broccoli and winter leaks to their new positions, or buy them fresh as plugs from a nursery.
• Continue sowing seeds for salads (a few at a time), as well as autumn crop peas, turnips and spring cabbages.
• Monitor your apples and plums to make sure there aren’t too many on each stem (three or four is enough). Thin out if necessary.
• You should still have some ripening strawberries. Check that there is enough straw under the plants to keep fruit off the soil. If you've been pegging down the strawberry runners, they should have formed enough roots by now to enable you to transplant them. This can be done either to pots to keep safe until they can be planted in the ground, or straight into a new strawberry bed.
• Your strawberries and other soft fruits should be ripe and ready for collection.
• Dry herbs can be picked and frozen for later usage.
• Harvest your courgettes before they become too big. Keep digging up potatoes as required.
• Many earlier-sown veggies (like peas, broad bens, and beetroot) will be ready in August.
• Keep one eye on those fruit patches – your cherries, peaches, gooseberries, raspberries and early plums should really start to ripen now.
Easy to do, yet also easy to get wrong. And under watering is often the big problem. A lot of us spray on an area of plants for a minute and then move on, yet doing this means the water is unlikely to have gone deeper than a few millimetres into the soil – nowhere near those roots.
Water like a rain cloud. Shove a jam jar among those plants that you’re watering. Stop watering when there’s about 2cm of water in the jar. That should take about 10 – 20 minutes on each area. Yes, we know this is daunting, and it’s one of the reasons why leaky hose systems (which deliver water to the soil via a porous hose and operate at the turn of a tap) are so pleasing.
August is also an ideal time to get rid of strongly growing perennial weeds such as ground elder and bindweed. We recommend using a systemic weed killer such as glyphosate – this will enter the weed through its leaves and kill it off easier.
Got a pretty conifer hedge (maybe a leylandii one) in your garden? August is when you should keep a close eye on it, as it’s the perfect time of year for cypress aphids. As the aphids can be difficult to spot, look for brown patches in the hedge and a black sooty mould along the stem.
When discovered, prune out all brown shoots and spray those affected areas with pesticide.
And these activities should pretty much keep your fingers green and your garden looking lovely until winter has passed. Happy August gardening!
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