August gardening

Dig it with Fulke Andel

It’s now that time of year; you’ve worked hard for the last few months, so the most important thing to do now is to enjoy your garden; heady scents, glorious colours, an abundance of fruits and vegetables and hopefully some sunshine to boot! What could be more enjoyable and satisfying than surveying the results of your hard work?

Right, enough sitting down and doing nothing. Once you’ve had your 5 mins of rest, it’s time to get the hoe out and give the weeds another trouncing! A little and often is far less work than leaving the weeds get a hold.

Some advice on troublesome weeds:

Convolvulus (Bindweed); this is a weed that will climb and grow through your plants. It has a rhizome root system that spreads, making it a difficult weed to eliminate. The best way I’ve found is to untangle a yard or so of it from the point it emerges from the ground. Push the stems into a glass jar, spray with weed killer and cover with cling film held in place with an elastic band. (See pictures below). Continuous contact with the weed killer means it’s absorbed into the stems, thus killing the roots.

Horsetail (Mare’s Tail); this is a weed that seems to be immune to weed killers. The reason for this is that the outer layer of the ‘fronds’ are waxy, and normally impervious to chemicals. Just like Convolvulus, it also has a rhizome root system. The best approach (for small areas) is to spray with weed killer then, wearing rubber gloves, rub the leaves between your thumb and forefinger. This helps break down the waxy outer layer, allowing the weed killer to penetrate the plant and be absorbed into the stems – killing the roots. I try to be organic in my approach to gardening, but sometimes, you just have to resort to chemicals!

If you have plants that overhang your lawn such as lavender, it can easily get chewed up by your lawn-mower as you cut the grass. To avoid this, use a combination of a bean pole and garden fork to lift the plant out of the way as you cut the grass – easy and effective.

Remember to water and feed your plants regularly, especially those in hanging baskets, pots or containers as well as climbers and roses growing against a sunny wall. Many a plant will not recover from drought, so water regularly and do not resort to feast and famine.

Water hydrangeas with hydrangea colourant for true blue hydrangeas next year and don’t forget our feathered friends – ensure bird baths are kept full of fresh clean water.

If possible, set up an automatic watering system for your vegetable plot, borders and even containers.

They are worth their weight in gold and can work on a sensor system that detects how dry the soil is. Once you have one you will wonder why you did not install one years ago. Going on holiday will no longer involve wondering if your precious plants will survive a dry spell, relying on a neighbour’s failing memory or paying someone else to hold a hose!

If the weather becomes warm and dry, water saving strategies include using bathwater and washing up water, provided they are neither too dirty nor oily. Keep your pond topped up, free of pond weed and clean – green algae can be toxic to pets.

Towards the end of August sow hardy annuals directly into borders. They will overwinter and flower next summer. Cutting back the foliage and stems of herbaceous plants that have already died back (e.g. Dicentra) is starting to be a priority.

Don’t neglect hanging baskets – deadheading, watering and feeding will help them last through until autumn. Deadhead plants such as dahlia, roses and penstemon and bedding to prolong the display colour well into early autumn. Don’t cut off the flower heads of ornamental grasses though as these will provide winter interest.

Hardy geraniums can be cut back a little to remove tired leaves and encourage a new flush of growth.

Prune climbing and rambling roses that do not repeat flower or produce attractive hips, once the flowers have finished.


Jobs for the month of August

Sow/Plant

  • Spring cabbage
  • Chinese cabbage
  • Kohlrabi
  • Spinach
  • Turnips
  • Lettuce

Plant Out

  • Cabbages and cauliflowers

Harvest

Most vegetables should be coming on stream, so you could be enjoying:-

  • Broad beans
  • French beans
  • Runner beans
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Courgettes
  • Cucumbers
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Lettuce
  • Onions
  • Spring onions
  • Peas
  • Early potatoes
  • Radish
  • Spinach
  • Sweetcorn
  • Tomatoes
  • Turnips

Fruit

Many fruits are ready to harvest or swelling.

Swelling fruit requires a lot of water so ensure they have enough.

Watch out for over-laden plums and damsons. If needed you can support branches by inserting a length of 2×1 timber, notched at the top (like an old-fashioned line prop) to support the branch or tie to the stem with robust twine.

Protect autumn raspberries from the birds now, with netting before the fruits arrive and the birds eat the lot.

General

  • Prune wisteria
  • Don’t delay summer pruning of restricted fruit trees
  • Deadhead flowering plants regularly
  • Watering! Particularly containers, and new plants – preferably with grey recycled water or stored rainwater
  • Collect seed from favourite plants
  • Harvest sweetcorn and other vegetables as they become ready
  • Continue cutting out old fruited canes on raspberries
  • Lift and pot up rooted strawberry runners
  • Keep ponds and water features topped up
  • Feed the soil with green manures

Readers Tips

Spray a mild solution of washing up liquid onto blackfly on beans (both broad and runner) to keep infestations under control. SD Hendy 

Seasonal Recipe

Here’s a classic way to enjoy your tomatoes.

To serve 2 you’ll need 500g of ripe, full flavoured tomatoes, 2 tbsp of good olive oil, around 1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar, a small handful of herbs of choice (chives, basil leaves, parsley etc.), sea salt and black pepper.

Thickly slice the tomatoes and place on a platter. Trickle over the olive oil, then the balsamic vinegar. Scatter over with herbs and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Enjoy!

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