It’s holiday time but do not ignore the garden. If you are going away, take a little time to prepare the garden first. A little bit of forethought will make sure that your garden stays looking good and is in good condition when you return. Pick all ripe fruit and vegetables, freeze or give them away to friends. Cut the lawn and give the flowerbeds a quick weeding so that they will stay in reasonable condition until you return. Move planters into a cooler spot and water them thoroughly. Consider using extra watering aids to maintain moisture levels. In the greenhouse, place plants on moist capillary matting connected to a container of water. Ideally, ask a neighbour or a friend to call by while you are away and keep a check on plants and pick any ripening crops.
Sunny days are often interspersed with a sudden rainstorm in August. Keep a check on tall plants such as tomatoes and delphiniums, providing additional staking where necessary. Heavy rain can dash down flower stems and wash fruit from stems, which is why regular picking of black currents, white currents and blueberries is essential. High temperatures and high levels of moisture in the air can turn fruit mouldy so take care to remove any fruit that shows signs of decay.
Remove deadheads from annual plants such as marigolds and tagates to encourage flowering to continue into the autumn. Floribunda and hybrid tea roses also need deadheading regularly.
Keep watch on planters to make sure that they are not getting too dry. Gently pierce the soil in the planter with a hand fork or trowel to check that all the soil is moist, not just the soil on top. If first aid is necessary – plunge the pot into container of water to thoroughly wet the compost. Do this overnight while the temperatures are coolest.
As the month progresses, the first early apples begin to ripen and trees should be checked regularly. But take time to relax and enjoy the pleasure of the summer garden as flowers bloom, birds sing and bees hunt for pollen.
Enjoy the beauty of your garden but keep on top of gardening tasks as it will make life easier in the coming months.
Dead heading plants as soon as you see them will give encourage annuals to put on further growth for a few more weeks – and give you more flowers! Herbs too need cutting back so that they will provide more fresh leaves for harvesting.
Soft fruit bushes need harvesting regularly to ensure that you enjoy the crops, not the birds! Gooseberries and current bushes should be checked daily and ripe fruit removed. Autumn fruiting raspberry canes will begin fruiting this month.
Prune summer flowering shrubs as soon as they have stopped blooming. This will encourage new growth and flowers for next year, as well as keeping shrubs to a manageable size for your garden. Climbing roses and rambling roses should also be pruned now.
In the vegetable area or in pots on the patio, more cut and come again lettuce, and other salad leaves can be sown to provide fresh greens in September. Harvest climbing beans each day, to ensure maximum cropping. If you are going away on holiday, harvest everything that is nearly ready before you leave. Ask a neighbour or relative to check the vegetable area while you are away and harvest anything that ripens.
Patio containers need to be kept well watered, and fed with a liquid fertilizer to encourage more blooms. Watering can be a problem in August, and every gardener should be ready for this and prepared to take action at the first sign of high temperatures. Use water from rainwater butts, and when this is no longer possible, use grey water sourced from washing up, cooking and laundry. It is safe to do so as long as the water is not messy, and only mild detergents have been used.
Mow lawns frequently to keep grass under control. If you have a wild flower area that has stopped flowering, cut it back and leave the seeds lying on the ground for a few days. This will encourage new flowers next year.
Sunshine, heat and August go together making this a very dry month in the garden. Watering is a necessity but limit this to those plants that really need it such as the vegetable garden, annuals, new plants and containers. Where possible, use grey recycled water from around the house or stored rainwater as this is much more environmentally friendly. Place containers in the shade so that they do not dry out quite as quickly. Use shading and keep windows open in greenhouses and conservatories to prevent plants becoming over heated.
Make a trip to the vegetable and fruit areas part of your daily routine. Every day more crops will be ready for harvesting. Runner beans and French beans are very prolific and the more you pick, the more flowers and beans will begin to appear. As the tassels darken on sweetcorn cobs, check the condition of the corn. If a milky liquid appears when you press the sweetcorn, it is ready for eating. Harvest and use as quickly as possible.
Cut away old fruiting canes on raspberries as soon as they stop producing fruit. This will create room for new shoots to appear. Lift and pot up rooted strawberry runners, so that these will be ready for planting in the autumn.
Deadhead flowering plants regularly, especially if they are annuals. This will encourage new flowers to form and result in flowers throughout the early autumn. Check greenhouse plants frequently for any evidence of whitefly, mealy bugs and red spider mite. Spraying quickly will reduce the amount of damage they can cause.
Lawns will still need to be mown this month, even though the pace of growth has slowed down. You will need to raise the blades on the mower before cutting, as this will reduce any stress from lack of water and help keep it in good condition. Mow lightly and allow short grass clippings to remain where they fall on the grass so that they can act as a moisture retentive mulch.