August Gardening Advice

August Gardening Advice

This is the month when burnt tones of yellow, red and orange set alight your flower borders. On the allotment, crops are being harvested daily as we do our best to deter gluts.

With the kids now on holiday, this is the perfect time for families to pack their suitcases and get away from it all, for a week or two. But while it’s good to take a break, leaving your plants unattended for several days, could have you returning home to withered flowers and thirsty crops. So, it’s important to maintain a regular water regime, and make plans if you are going away. Make use of drip irrigation systems, water butts and water retention gels. Methods that won’t put a strain on your water bills, or be affected by any looming hosepipe ban.

In the flower garden

Holiday

If you’re going away, ensure you make plans to keep your garden from drying out. Ask a neighbour to pop over once every few days to water and check on your garden. If you have pots and containers, group them all together under some shade, to make the job easier. Keep greenhouses ventilated, and if necessary, create shade to prevent certain plants from getting scorched.

Watering

A close up of a wooden water barrel or water butt, great for collecting water to reuse in the gardenWhether there’s a hosepipe ban in your area or not, using water sensibly is a good habit to get into. Make use of water butts, re-use old dish water, and water either early in the morning or at dusk, when the lower temperatures mean less water evaporation and little chance of scorching plant foliage.

Keeping your garden well-weeded also ensures the water goes to the plants that need it.

If you’re planting up containers and hanging baskets, add water retention gel to the soil. If you’re growing tomatoes, create a drip irrigation system.

Deadheading

Deadhead regularly to keep flowers blooming into autumn. Fresh blooms not only look good, but continue to feed bees, butterflies and hoverflies, which are essential to a garden’s wellbeing. Sweet peas will be keen to set seed, so it’s important to deadhead daily. Keep up with the water regime, and add a weekly plant feed.

Perennials

With heavy blooms and ever-growing stems, plants such as dahlias and gladioli will need staking. This extra support will not only prevent damage, but discourage ground pests from attacking low-lying plants.

Lavender

Stop lavender from becoming leggy by cutting into a compact shape, but don’t cut too far back as new flowers can’t grow on old wood. Use the cut flowers around the home. You could create lavender pouches to scent drawers or pillow cases, or use it in your baking.

Wisteria growing on the side of a manor houseWisteria

Ideally, you should prune wisteria twice a year. Once in late winter, and once in August. There’s been a lot of growth during the summer months, so cut these newly-formed long laterals back to the fifth set of leaves on each shoot, and tie-in where necessary. This restricts the growth, creates better ventilation, hardens the remaining summer growth, and encourages new flower buds for next year.

Hedges

Hedges can become unruly in summer, and now that the birds have fledged, it’s time to give them a prune. Whether you’re using shears or a hedge trimmer, think about how you want your hedge to look. Work from the bottom up in a smooth, controlled motion. Prune all sides and finish with the top. Wear protective clothing and use the correct height support if the hedge is high. Once completed, clear away all debris.

Pond

Remove any build-up of algae and weeds, placing it beside the pond overnight. This will give any captured wildlife the opportunity to return to the water. If you have water plants, now is the time to thin them. Clean the pumps and filters of any water features you may have. If you have fish, feed them regularly.

On the veg patch

Feed

You should be feeding your tomatoes weekly now to ensure a healthy, tasty crop, but tomato feed can also be used for cucumbers, aubergines, peppers, chillies and sweetcorn plants.

Fresh potatoes being dug up and harvested from the ground with a shovel

Potatoes

When the leaves on your main crop turn yellow and wither, it’s a sign your spuds are ready to be dug up. If you’re not going to eat them straight away, rest them on the topsoil for a few hours to dry the excess moisture, then place in hessian sacks. Ideally, the sacks should be stored somewhere with ventilation, where it’s cool, dark and pest-free. Check on them regularly to make sure none have spoilt.

Onions and shallots

With foliage bent over and turning yellow, onions and shallots are now ready for lifting. Once lifted, leave them on the surface of the soil for a few hours to dry in the sunshine. Then, shake off the excess soil from the roots, careful not to damage them, and place somewhere warm so they can dry out. After a week, or two, they should be ready for storing somewhere cool, dark and dry. Either tie them together and hang them up, or place them in onion bags. Both storage methods should prevent mould, but check regularly to make sure none have perished.

Beans

Whether it’s runner beans or French beans, the key is to pick them regularly. By doing so, you’re preventing them from setting seed. Ensure they are well watered, and that the base of the plant is well-mulched. Once the plant reaches the top of its staked cane, pinch out the top.

Pests and diseases

Cabbage white caterpillars on a brassica plant. Check your crops regularly, remove any eggs or pests you find and protect your brassicas with netting and collarsHeat, humidity, and occasional rainfall are the perfect conditions to encourage blight. Check both tomato and potato plants regularly. If you see any signs of the fungal infestation, remove plants altogether. If you catch it at an early stage with your potatoes, leave the tubers in the ground, as they may not be affected. Do not place infected plants on the compost heap. Instead, either burn immediately or remove from the site altogether. To reduce blight, encourage a crop rotation system, and try to use blight resistant varieties.

Cabbage White Butterflies will be eyeing up your brassicas to lay their eggs. Check your crops regularly, and remove any eggs or pests you find. Net your crops, use brassica collars when planting out, and introduce nematodes to control caterpillars.

Pick regularly

Courgettes, marrows and cucumbers will continue to produce so long as you pick regularly. Cut away excess foliage to help sunshine reach your crops and to prevent powdery mildew. Mildew can also be prevented by watering at the base of the plant rather than on the leaves.

Fruit

With gooseberries now harvested, it’s the perfect time to prune the plant. You want to create a ‘goblet’ shape to encourage as much ventilation as possible. Remove the inner branches of the plant, and reduce the rest of the plant to about six leaves per branch. This will encourage fresh shoots to grow.

Keep an eye on plum and apple trees that might be weighed down by fruit. If the tree appears to be stressed, support and tie-in where possible. If you’re growing grapes, ensure the growing vines are being tied-in regularly.

Summer raspberry canes should have now fruited. Cut back the fruit canes, and encourage fresh new canes by tying them onto a support.

SowA close up of a hand sowing beetroot seeds into the soil with the seeds on a plate. Sow beetroot in August for a late harvest.

Succession sow salad leaves and spring onions for a continuous crop, and beetroot, kohlrabi and pak choi can also be sown now for a late harvest.

Green manure

As your veg beds start to empty, consider sowing green manure if you’re not growing winter crops. Not only will it improve the quality of the soil, but it will help suppress weeds.

Other jobs

  • Although we’re at the height of summer, now’s the time to order your spring bulbs for autumn planting.
  • In hot spells water compost heaps and turnover.
  • If you’ve run your water butts dry, give them a clean, removing all dirt.
  • Towards the end of the month you may have to start closing greenhouse vents and doors in the evenings, as night-times can become cooler.

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