THINGS TO DO IN THE GARDEN IN AUGUST
Trees, shrubs and hedging planted within the last two years require regular watering until established, and this is a particular problem with the prolonged dry weather but is a necessity if they are to survive. The long drought may be over for many of us now that the weather is starting to break into a more "normal" pattern for British summertime, don't be fooled into thinking that a little rain will be enough to water newly planted trees, shrubs or hedging which have large rootballs - unless the plant is acually standing in a puddle it is unlikely that enough water will soak in to fully hydrate the rootball. For further advice, refer to the watering advice on one of our "How To" pages http://www.wykehammatureplants.co.uk/watering .
Keep feeding seasonal flowering containers, such as hanging baskets, window boxes, and also tomato or pepper plants in pots or bags, with a high potash fertiliser, such as a good brand of tomato food, every seven to ten days, and keep a close eye on the watering. Blossom End Rot on tomatoes is caused by a lack of calcium, but is often the indirect result of irregular watering – so as well as careful watering it may be prudent to use a feed with a little added calcium.
Mid to late August is the time to summer prune Wisteria to encourage flowering next spring. Cut the whippy new shoots produced this season back to about five buds from the base, ready to prune them back again to just two buds in January.
[Image: A summer prune now, followed by another in January will promote flowers on Wisteria next spring. For mor reliable flowering always grow Wisteria in full sun.]
Avoid applying granular lawn fertilisers on exceptionally hot days, or particularly when the lawn is suffering from drought stress, as these conditions make the grass more likely to scorch. Always read the label and follow the application instructions carefully. The same applies to feeding plants in general; never feed plants with dry roots or when suffering drought or heat stress as this can shock the plant.
If you’re planning on going on holiday it’s well worth investing in a simple automatic irrigation system for pots and containers. If you shop around, a basic drip irrigation kit with a timer isn’t as expensive as you’d think. If possible, you can simplify things by grouping pots together so that less supply tubing is needed.
Peas and mange-tout crops may be coming to an end, but if you keep up with regularly harvesting beans, especially runner beans, and Sweet Pea flowers for that matter, you can prolong the crop for weeks still to come.
If it isn’t too hot, August is the ideal time to give evergreen hedges their annual trim, or their second and final trim of the year if two cuts are appropriate. In general, it’s best not to cut evergreen hedges after the second week of September.
If there are gaps in beds and borders, remember that plants in pots can be planted at any time of year as long as the ground is soft enough to dig - so if the ground is still baked so hard that you’d need a pickaxe to dig the hole, it’d be best to wait I’m afraid. If needs be you can add some seasonal colour displays with pots of annuals or bedding in these gaps, which can then be moved when they go over and when the ground is more suitable for planting a more permanent solution. Take note of significant gaps, and especially areas along boundaries where additional planting for screening and/or security are needed, and start to make plans for the autumn when the conditions will be more conducive to planting.
The prolonged dry weather has created many challenges this year, but one real positive is that it has been a good year for moths and especially for butterflies and, hopefully (as long as the drought doesn’t kill off the food plants needed for the caterpillars) may help for strong populations next year too if the weather allows.
It may sound obvious, but find time to sit in the garden and enjoy it! Most people have a seating area near the house, such as the patio area immediately adjacent to the house, but remember that the more places in the garden there are to sit down the more time people will spend in the garden. Therefore, it’s well worth taking a fresh look at other parts of the garden to see where you can squeeze in a bench, arbour seat, or even an extra mini-patio on which to stand a small table and a chair or two.