July was a scorcher!

This year in the garden has been very dry and hot, especially in July. A lot of the early flowering plants such as Hydrangeas struggled in the heat or became prone to mildew. Some, however, coped better than others such as Cistus, Lavender, Abelia, Crocosmias, ornamental grasses and the Mediterranean plants like Olives and herbs including Rosemary, Sage, Thyme and Marjoram which all flourished in the sun and dry conditions. Surprisingly, the roses have looked amazing, just keep feeding them for further displays of flowers. During this long dry run regularly water any trees, shrubs and perennials planted this year also your tubs, containers and hanging baskets.


Treat vegetable plants to a drenching

Vegetable plants like lettuce, rocket and spinach soon run to seed in drought conditions. When watering, ensure you get right to the roots, rather than just the leaves, on a weekly basis. A thorough soak every few days is better than a daily trickle. Mulching with an organic compost or soil improver will help to retain moisture. You can even use the grass clippings as a mulch, providing the grass is not going to seed.


Keep baskets and containers blooming

With hanging baskets and planted containers, it is vital to keep deadheading and boost with a weekly feed, so flowers continue to bloom throughout August. If container plants have suffered in the heat, then replace these with seasonal colours from herbaceous plants, such as Kniphophias - known as Red Hot Pokers, Rudbeckias, Salvias and Penstemons.


Use ornamental grasses, such as Pennisetum or Skyrocket with its cream and green foliage to give interest and colour throughout the remainder of the summer. In the autumn these can be planted out in flower borders, freeing containers to be planted with autumn/winter interest plants and spring bulbs.


From plot to plate

In the vegetable patch, August is the month to harvest beetroot, French and runner beans, cucumbers, lettuce, radish and sweet corn. These vegetables picked straight from the plant, cooked and eaten fresh are delicious and packed with goodness. With onions, garlic and courgettes the more you pick, the more they grow, so keep picking!

Tend to your tomatoes

For tomatoes, this month keep up with weekly feeding and start removing lower leaves as trusses of fruit develop. This helps with ventilation and allows more light to reach the fruit. Sunlight not only helps ripening and produces sweeter fruit but helps to prevent tomato blight. Another tip is just to water around the roots and keep foliage dry, which is easier when growing in a greenhouse rather than outside. With outdoor tomatoes if you remove the tip of the stem all the energy is then diverted into the fruit below, preventing lots of small green tomatoes at the end of the season.

Sowing Winter vegetables

August is also a busy month for sowing for winter and spring produce, including lettuce, spring cabbage, rocket, parsley, turnips, spinach, chard, Chinese cabbage and pak choi. If you want potatoes for Christmas, plant up seed potatoes in large containers or potato planters in a sunny sheltered position. As the weather turns cooler in the autumn, bring them into a greenhouse or polytunnel for extra weather protection, ready for freshly dug potatoes at Christmas.

Fill the gaps in your borders

August is a good time to look round your borders and plants which have been damaged by the heat can be trimmed and a good liquid feed given to boost the roots. Any gaps can be used to add colour and instant impact with Echinaceas, Rudbeckias, Heleniums and ornamental grasses producing spikes of seedheads looking great in summer sunshine. Also look for overgrown weeds especially those flowering and ready to produce seeds in their millions! Remember one year’s weed seed equals seven years of weeding!


Easy to grow August plants

Some easy-to-grow August interest plants include Buddleia originating from Asia, Africa and China and named after the English Botanist Adam Buddle. Commonly known as the butterfly bush, it flowers in a wide range of colours attractive to bees, butterflies and moths. Some cultivars are small enough to grow in tubs and containers. Hibiscus Syriacus is a plant native to Korea and Southeast China with showy and exotic looking flowers in pink, white, violet and blue. The flowers only last a day but will continue to flower over a long period and this plant is tolerant of heat, drought and poor soil. In Spring it is late in producing new leaves, and it is sometimes as late as May before new leaves appear.

(From L to R) - Buddleia, Hibiscus Syriacus, Hemerocallis

Loving the hot weather!

Hemerocallis, commonly known as Day Lily, has done well in recent hot weather. Native to Asia it has grown for a thousand years in Chinese gardens and was introduced to Europe via traders along the silk routes. In the last 100 years breeders have introduced thousands of hybrids from just two species of Day Lily! With a wide range of colours, except white and blue, they need to be deadheaded regularly to produce more flowers later in the summer. Penstemons’ array of colours include white, pink, purple and blue, some bi-coloured, and they do best in a bright sunny position in moist well-drained soil, protected from cold winter winds. They should only be pruned in spring once shoots start to appear. Other highlights include Phlox paniculata in a whole range of varieties some with scented flowers. Dahlia flowers come in a range of shapes and sizes, with some flowers the size of dinner plates and others the size of a golf ball. Dahlias are ideal for cutting and create a tropical border planted with Cannas, phormiums, banana plants and grasses, with begonias for ground cover.

Feed now for flowers next Spring

Feed Camellias, Rhododendrons and Azaleas with a high-potash tomato feed and keep them well watered, as now is the time that they are initiating flower buds for next year. Dryness at the roots now is a common reason why they buds drop away next spring, or just don’t flower so well.

Peat Free composts - boost your results!

A question we have been asked several times is about the quality of Peat free compost. It has vastly improved over the years and results have been as good as previous composts. Compost needs to be moisture retentive as well as being free draining, and as a guide,to check the moisture level, push a finger into the compost to feel if moist beneath the surface and feel the weight of the pot. Also start feeding three weeks after potting up rather than six weeks as we did previously. We have been using a seaweed feed and Westland ferttiliser to provide a boost and produce excellent results.
For summer hanging baskets add water retention crystals to help retain moisture. Peat bogs take thousands of years to form, and their gradual loss has led to a decline in flora and fauna. Destroying peat bogs for use in compost will also contribute to climate change, so as gardeners we can all benefit by using peat free compost.

Enjoy your summer garden in the warm evenings and celebrate the beauty of the late summer plants with a glass of something chilled. Next month spring bulbs arrive heralding a new chapter in the garden!

We look forward to helping with all your gardening questions, and hope to see you soon.

The Van Hage Team