What to do in the garden in August

In the garden in August there is much maintenance work to do.  If you are not weeding, you are watering, and when not doing that you are picking and pickling, jamming and cooking your way through your vegetable plot as it hits is maximum harvest time.  So, even though you are busy, you might find some of the following to be helpful pointers.

Jobs in the flower garden in August

As soon as petals fall from your lilies, remove the flower stalk by cutting the stem just below the flower head.  Make a clean cut with a pair of secateurs just above a leaf.  The plants will then produce food, which allows the bulb to build up its reserves so it can flower again next summer.  Once the faded flowers have been removed, the plants will benefit from a general purpose liquid plant feed applied round their base.

Foxglove seeds from Mr FothergillsHostas too can have spent flower stalks removed to keep the plants looking tidy for the rest of the summer.  We all know how attractive hostas are to slugs and snails, so if you can maintain a deterrent mulch such as broken eggshells or gravel round the base of plants, especially after rain, this should help to control the problem.

Foxgloves are attractive in early summer and produce seed freely.  If you wish, you may like them to shed their seed and produce seedlings at random through the garden, but if you prefer not to have these ‘volunteer’ plants, it is a good idea to cut back the stems now they have finished flowering.

Bulb planter from Mr Fothergill'sIt is not too early to start thinking about displays of spring-flowering bulbs for your garden displays and containers.  They will begin to appear in the shops towards the end of the month and can be planted from September onwards when the warm soil will help them establish well before the weather turns colder.  Generally speaking, the bigger the bulbs the bigger the flowers they produce and as larger bulbs are usually a little more expensive than smaller ones it is a case of ‘getting what you pay for’. You might also want to invest in a bulb planter to save your hands and wrists some effort if you have grand designs!

If you like the thought of hyacinths flowering in pots indoors over the Christmas period and into the New Year, keep a look-out for ‘prepared’ hyacinth bulbs, which have undergone a period in a temperature-controlled environment to encourage them to flower earlier.

If you would like to increase your stock of shrubs, August is a good month to take semi-ripe cuttings of these.  New growth made during the spring and summer will have become a little hardened and is ideal for the purpose.  Select only non-flowering shoots which look strong and healthy.  With a sharp knife, make tip cuttings from the top 4in of growth and remove the lowest leaves.  A tray of cells is ideal for propagating these cuttings.  Use a 50-50 mix of multi-purpose compost and sharp sand, plus a little vermiculite, and push one cutting into each cell.  Gently firm them in, water well with a fine-rosed watering can and allow to drain.

The tray can be placed in a cold frame or a sheltered spot in the garden.  Within a few weeks they should be making new top growth with roots visible through the drainage holes.  They can be potted on to larger pots before being set out to their final positions in autumn or next spring.


Jobs in the vegetable garden in August

Onion Electric from Mr Fothergill'sOnions are one of the most valuable and satisfying crops to grow in the vegetable garden or down on the allotment – and the great thing about them is they are very easy to grow and manage.  Thirty five years ago or so there was quite a breakthrough in onions when seed of hardy Japanese strains such as Senshyu, and Imai were launched.  Seed sown in August or September would generally over-winter to provide an earlier than usual crop of bulbs the following summer.

Nowadays many such varieties, including good old Senshyu, are available as sets.  We offer several such as bolt-resistant Radar, red-skinned Electric and the superb white-skinned Snowball, which has a lovely mild flavour, as has Senshyu.  We are accepting orders for these over-wintering onion sets until the middle of August, which is when we begin our despatch.  Plant the tiny bulbs as soon as possible after receipt, keep them weed-free through the winter and you will be enjoying a delicious crop of onions early next summer before the ‘maincrops’ ripen in August.  By the way, we also offer a specially formulated granular onion fertiliser (N11, P22, K22) , which, being high in potash and phosphorus, gives good disease resistance and encourages good bulb development.  It’s equally effective when used on shallots and garlic.

Cabbage Spring HeroOf the same vintage as Senshyu is spring Cabbage Spring Hero F1, and it too is still going strong.  When it was launched it was remarkable for the being the first ballhead (spherical) spring cabbage, as all the others were traditionally conical.  Seed of  Spring Hero F1 can be sown during August and it will produce a fine crop of medium-sized, densely packed, sweet tasting heads next April and May.  Offenham 2 Flower of Spring is a great choice if you prefer your spring cabbages to have pointed heads!

As an alternative to growing spring cabbages from seed, take a look at our Spring Greens Collection, which offers 15 plants each of spring cabbages Spring Hero F1 and Frostie, sprouting broccoli Claret F1 and cauliflower Walcheren Winter 3 – Armado April.  You can order this collection until early September, and we shall then despatch the young plants to you from mid September onwards ready for you to plant out to their cropping positions.  It’s as simple as that!


Jobs in the fruit garden in August

Raspberry Glen FyneRaspberries, such as our Malling Minerva and Glen Fyne, are one of the great delights of the summer fruit garden, requiring very little attention to produce a worthwhile and tasty crop of their sharp-sweet berries.  Summer-fruiting types produce their fruit on wood produced the previous year, so once you have harvested the last of your crop cut the canes which fruited this summer down almost to ground level in order to let this year’s growth develop in readiness for cropping next summer.  Train all new growth gently into your supports.  Autumn-cropping raspberries on the other hand, such as our Autumn Treasure and Polka, are known as ‘primocanes’ and they produce their crop on canes produced this year.

If you have never grown that other great summer treat – strawberries – you’re missing a trick!  Most of the new varieties being bred and introduced are excellent, but as many are aimed at the commercial grower qualities such as resistance to bruising and an ability to remain in good condition for days after picking are as important as flavour and fragrance.  Where gardeners have the advantage is their crop is usually picked and eaten within minutes, so we are not bothered by the fruits’ ability to withstand transportation or whether it has a good ‘shelf life’.  All we are interested in is flavour!

The varieties Cambridge Favourite and Royal Sovereign are considerably older than most of the strawberries we offer.  In their heyday they were grown commercially and while they have been superseded by modern varieties they have that really old fashioned strawberry flavour some of us may never have tasted.  Give these two ‘old timers’ a try and we know you will be impressed!  It’s a well-kept secret, so don’t tell anyone else.

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