Gardening Advice - August

Our resident plant expert, Phil McCann has some top tips as you get out in the garden this August.

Top August Gardening Tips:

  • Harvest crops when young
  • Water all containers
  • Top up ponds
  • Trim conifer hedges
  • Harvest all potatoes
  • Raise the mower blades
  • Sow beetroot and salad leaves
  • Pinch out runner beans
  • Feed tomatoes
  • Sow cowslips

Overview of August:

The holiday season is in full swing so, if you are lucky enough to be going away, remember to cancel the milk and papers along with asking your neighbour to care for your plants. Group containers together in a shady spot to make the watering easier and don't be afraid to write a list detailing your watering regime. It’ll make it less stressful for your neighbour and allow you to snooze guilt free under that parasol.

Harvest crops when young:

French beans, runners, strawberries, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, radish - the list is long as many crops are beginning to mature. Pick when they are young, in the case of beans etc, to gain more production or simply to get the best taste.

Water all containers:

Plants growing in containers get thirsty. Consider fitting micro irrigation to your pots if you are going away on holiday for a fortnight (only if your neighbours can’t do your watering tasks!) and definitely group pots together in a shadier part of the garden. Even sun lovers will put up with a little bit of shade if it means less stress and lots of water from a handy hosepipe or watering can  

Top up ponds:

Obviously, it depends on whether we have a ‘Phew wot a scorcher’ or ‘UK faces washout’ type of summer, but if it's hot your pond will lose water through evaporation. Top it up with rainwater from your water butt or, if that is low or being used elsewhere in the garden, tap water will have to do. Ideally let the tap water stand for an hour or two in a bucket before adding to the pond.

Trim conifer hedges:

Now is a great time to trim up your yew and other conifer hedges. Not only will it keep things looking ship-shape, the resultant new growth will have time to mature before winter.

Harvest all potatoes:

Once plants have flowered, you know the potatoes are ready to eat. Ensure you get all spuds from the soil as anything left will only attract slugs. Not only that, if left over winter they will grow next spring and will undoubtedly spoil your onion bed or cabbage patch or whatever you are growing in their place in 2018. Clear away all leaves and stems to prevent any chance of diseases getting a hold. Store spuds in large sturdy paper sacks (greengrocers have loads for free) in the dark before use.

Raise the mower blades:

Chances are that your lawn will be knee high when you return from your hols. Or even if you haven’t been away, the thing still grows! In hot dry weather raise the blades of your mower. This reduces the evaporation of water from the soil surface between the blades of your grass. Also, if it is long on your return, cutting a bit off at a time reduces stress on the grass. Shave the lot on the morning after you land at the airport and you will simply create a hard, yellow rock face.

Sow beetroot and salad leaves:

Gaps begin to appear in the veg plot, especially when all those potatoes are harvested. Don’t let a centimetre of soil go to waste - sow beetroot seeds and salad leaves and spring onions and radishes and both Chinese and spring cabbage and corn salad. And you thought it was going to get quieter in the garden - not a chance!

Pinch out runner beans:

Runner beans will be merrily waving from the tops of canes and any flowers they produce from now will not have time to produce pods. Get the step ladders out, make them safe and nip out the tops of all runner bean plants you can reach. It will allow the plants to concentrate their efforts into turning existing flowers into tasty pods.

Feed tomatoes:

I mentioned it last month but it is still a priority so here it is again - feed your tomatoes to ensure tasty and full crops. The idea is to add a fertilizer high in potash to the regular waterings you give your tomato plants. Regular watering reduces a nasty condition called blossom end rot (where the ends of the fruits turn brown - yuk!) and you add the much needed potash to allow the fruits to develop. And nothing beats the taste of a still warm, sun ripened tomato straight from the vine. Does it?

Sow cowslips:

The start of your wildflower meadow can be sown now - trays of wildflower seeds will grow until winter, sit quite happily in their trays of gritty compost in a cold frame and then be ready for potting on next spring. Or even planted out - and the wildlife will love you for it.