Your August Garden
I'm not sure where the year is going as August tips over onto the calendar and everything in the garden is growing so quickly. In the greenhouse, the cucumbers and tomatoes are, to say the least, prolific. Cucumbers are being passed over the garden hedge to neighbours and no visitor to the house goes away empty-handed. I do wish the aubergines would get a move on though. Lots of leaves, plenty of flowers but no fruit yet so I'm helping the pollination along by tapping the plants as I do with the tomatoes (fingers crossed they’ll hurry up as moussaka is a favourite!).
Temperatures in the greenhouse reach extraordinarily high levels on sunny days, even in the UK. I always make sure to open the door and damp the floor (but I still reckon the temperatures have 'cooked' some embryonic cucumbers). However, the plants do look great so any of the few fruits that fall off early won't be missed.
I've got a lot of plants growing in containers and they need a little attention at this time of year. Water is paramount as, for example, the foliage of the solenostemon (or coleus) stops water from reaching the compost but it's better not to spray water over the foliage (that can cause rotting or allow the sun to burn the leaves). Deadheading of flowers on most of my fuchsias, begonias and calendulas is a daily job as it encourages more blooms. I’m also delighted to see the dahlias beginning to flower! They struggled a bit at the beginning of spring but have picked up well and look to be preparing for fantastic displays until mid-autumn.
As gaps appear in the veg patch I'm sowing short rows of quick growing crops. Carrots, beetroot, spring onions, radish and lettuce will all mature before things slow down in a couple of months.
So, August is busy...better get on with it!
Hints and tips for August gardening
- Check all your plants every day and water accordingly.
- During that daily routine, rub out young colonies of aphids. It will save your plants (and you) a lot of hassle later on.
- Keep mowing the lawn. With the rain and warmth, this should be at least twice a week.
- Slugs seem to be extremely active at the moment. Treat as you feel right for you. I’ve just watered in another batch of nematodes into my garden soil.
- Keep taking off fall fading flowers from your bedding plants to prolong blooming.
- Hanging baskets must be the thirstiest containers in the garden – so many roots in such a small space. A gallon a day every day (or last thing at night) is perfect for superb displays.
- Keep picking fruit and veg. More cutting of cucumbers = more down the line.
- Cut flowers, fruit and veg. You will get the rewards of your hard work and it encourages more of a harvest later in the year.
- Keep sowing seeds of fast growing crops to squeeze in a harvest before autumn.
We are in the holiday season with many gardeners entering the most worrying time of the year. Leaving a greenhouse and garden for two weeks takes a bit of planning if you want to avoid a desolate picture on your return. I have to say, I am extremely lucky in having a green-fingered, dedicated grower as a neighbour. Nothing is too much trouble for them and some of the plants end up looking better after my neighbour has been looking after them. If you are in such a fortunate position, make things easier by grouping pots together, rigging up hose pipes and such in advance, and produce a watering/maintenance schedule.
Failing a great neighbour, you could connect lots of fiddly pipes and connect them to a timer fitted to your outdoor tap. One step further involves being able to regulate the watering from your phone (via your Wi-Fi router back at home) whist you sun yourself on the beach. All good stuff!
Q: The level in my small pond is going down. What can I do?
A: First thing is check for any leaks. You may notice a string of small bubbles where any hole or cracks have developed. Small holes can easily be patched up using a repair kit (similar to a bike tyre repair kit). However, if all that is okay, it could just be the sun evaporating the water. Either way, it's best to top ponds up with rainwater.
Q: My strawberries have gone berserk. Lots of long strings with small plants have been produced. What do I do?
A: Your strawberries are producing runners and they are a great way to make new plants. Trace out one of the 'strings' or runner and dig a small hole beneath where a new plant is growing on the runner. Peg down the plant onto the surface of the compost, in the pot, plunged in the soil (use a hair pin or a stone). After a month or so, roots will grow where the plant touches the compost. Snip off the plant from the runner and voilà - you have a new strawberry plant rooted and growing in a small pot of compost.
Q: Can I collect seeds from some of the annual flowers that have finished blooming?
A: Of course – it's great gardening! Wait for the seed pods to dry out (but before they shed their seed!) and choose a dry day. Then, put a paper bag over the pod, snip the head from the stalk and turn the bag over. With a little shake the seeds will all pour into the bag. Label it up, store in a cool, dry place and sow next spring.
Events and shows this month
August is a great time to visit some of the larger gardens around the country. Many hold plant or country shows and they are great place to gain inspiration and buy more plants!