Hannah Genders advises on garden jobs to tackle in August.
August is a strange month in the garden – it’s a “between” time where most summer plants have stopped growing and are waiting for autumn to come. Ornamental grasses and annuals are doing a wonderful job in bridging the gap in the flower garden at this time of year.
The Vegetable Garden
Watering is probably the most obvious thing with your vegetables and regular watering is very important. Beans will still be coming thick and fast, hopefully, and need to be kept as moist as possible.
I always grow my courgettes under the bean plants and these need plenty of water and a regular feed with an organic foliar feed or blood, fish and bone. Pick the courgettes when they are still small and sweet, and you can use the flowers which are wonderful fried in a tempura batter.
I’ve also grown some flowers in the vegetable garden which look wonderful and encourage all the bees and beneficial insects to hang around and pollinate my plants!
The greenhouse will need regular watering and it is vital to water tomatoes about the same amount each day – erratic watering will result in the fruits splitting and although they will still taste good, they look unappetising.
The tomato plants will need regular feeding, which can be done with a watering can and a specialist tomato feed added to the water about once a week.
Tomato plants also need the side shoots removing to encourage the plant to put its energy into the fruit rather than growing leaves. The side shoots grow between the leaf node and the main stem and are easily removed with a finger and thumb.
If the plant has put on lots of leaf growth, I often remove the lower leaves to let the sun get to the ripening fruit. Remember to always clear away your leaves and weeds from the greenhouse floor as any decaying matter encourages disease.
If you have any areas of wildflowers (I have just one area near the pond) now is the time to cut back the flowers that have finished to get them to seed down for next year.
Cut the grasses and wildflower stems back to the ground and leave the cuttings for a few days to let the seeds fall out for next year.
Pruning summer shrubs
Large shrubs like Philadelphus, Spirea and Weigela have now finished flowering and benefit greatly from a summer prune. August is the ideal month to do this, and the result is a neater shrub and better flowers next year.
All these shrubs flower on the new wood, so the pruning technique is to trim back the old branches that have just flowered to the new growth (which will be flowering next year).
If the plant has become leggy and too tall, cut back to the lowest branch of new growth. Using sharp secateurs, trim to just above the growth point of the new branch.
If there are some very old branches that overcrowd the shrub, these can be removed to ground level to tidy up the plant, but only remove up to one third of the shrub in total, and it’s a good idea to keep standing back and checking the overall shape.
Once you have finished the pruning the shrub should be reduced in height, less congested and will flower well next year.
Climbers that have finished flowering can also have a trim at this time of year; rambling roses often put on a lot of growth after flowering and throw out long stems that need a trim back, while wisteria is also a climber that needs an August prune – trim back the long, new stems so the plant keeps a tidy habit.
At the end of this month or the start of September, trim back your lavender; mine has done amazingly well this year and is full of flower. Once these have faded, trim back the plant to where the flower meets the main leaves.
Never cut into the old wood as this will kill the plant. Use the lavender for drying and scenting drawers and wardrobes!
An obvious one really, as August is one of our driest months. Try using rainwater as much as possible when watering the garden and pots, as it’s much more sustainable and has fewer chemicals than tap water.
We uncovered our well here last summer, so I am managing to use much less water in the whole garden. I think the well is around four hundred years old and still working!
We spend all year in our garden doing jobs, so this is the month to sit and relax. My friend Kaaren is up from London and has spent most of her time relaxing in my garden!
We forget, living in a village, how fortunate we are to have green space, so get out there and enjoy it.