August is a fantastic month in the garden.
If you’ve grown your own, you’ll be harvesting everything from cucumbers and courgettes to potatoes and carrots this month. If you’ve got kids or grandkids, you’ll no doubt be kicking back with them in the garden here and there while they’re on their school holidays. There are a few jobs worth doing in the garden this month to extend the season and start getting your garden ready to look its level best next year. So, here are my top 3 gardening jobs to do in August.
It goes without saying, but plants need ample water to stay alive. Water is essential for photosynthesis, the transport of essential nutrients around the plant and for rigidity and structure.
Plants can really suffer during long, hot days in August, so it’s good to keep a regular watering regime.
Water container-grown flowers and newly planted trees and shrubs once, or even twice, a day when the weather is really scorching. Also be sure to water out of the midday heat so that water has a chance to seep down to plant roots before evaporating.
If you’re going on holiday, asking a neighbour or family member to pop round and water the garden in your absence is often the best way to make sure your plants get watered while you’re away.
If this is not an option, there are a variety of ways you can make sure your plants get enough water while you’re on holiday.
One possibility is a timer-controlled irrigation system, but these can be a little pricey. Alternatively, opt for a homemade version by filling plastic bottles with water, punching holes in the lid and sinking them neck down into the soil around vulnerable plants. For more suggestions, see my blog Watering while on holiday.
In times of hosepipe bans, I also have some great tips on conserving water without your plants going thirsty.
Established shrubs that flower in late winter, spring and early summer need pruning in August to ensure that they put on good growth and flowers next year.
Wisteria is one of these. I call it a ‘two and eight’ shrub, since it needs pruning in February—the second month of the year—and August—the eighth.
To prune, roughly shorten new stem growth, taking it back to around five or six leaves from the base. This helps to get light and air to the wood that will produce the flowers next spring, which will make the flowers stronger and more impressive.
If you’re trying to train the plant along a support, leave a few of the new shoots, twine them through your support and tie in. Keep the ties fairly loose so the stem can thicken as the plant ages.
Buddleja (Butterfly bush) shrubs that have just finished flowering, such as Buddleja alternifolia and Buddleja ‘Lochinch,’ need to be pruned in August to ensure healthy shoots and beautiful flowers next season.
If you don’t prune appropriately, the bush may become excessively tall and twiggy, bearing its flowers at the end of scraggy-looking stems.
A very simple way to prune is to cut the bush down to knee height and take any old or damaged stems right back to ground level.
Buddleja stems can be especially thick, so you may need to invest in a pruning saw to get the job done well.
Don’t think that just because it’s late in the season you can’t get your growing hat on! There are still plenty of vegetable crops that you can sow in August, both for harvesting this year and next.
Radishes can be sown from seed throughout August and will harvest four weeks later, adding a special homegrown crunch to late summer salads.
August is also an ideal month to take cuttings of woody herbs such as rosemary, sage and lavender to expand your plant stock.
This is remarkably easy to do. Take a new stem of that hasn’t flowered this year and cut the top 7–10cm away from the main plant. Cut it at an angle just below a leaf joint with a clean knife or scissors. Then, remove the lower leaves, dip the end of the stem in a hormone rooting solution and replant in gritty compost.
Also see my blog featuring my top plants for August colour if your garden needs a bit of a boost this month.
Focus on my top 3 gardening jobs for August and enjoy the fruits of your labour all the way into next year.