Keep the summer colour going
August in the garden can sometimes be a difficult month, because hot dry weather can cause plants to ‘go over’ very quickly especially in tubs, containers and hanging baskets, so regular watering and feeding weekly with a liquid tomato feed will keep your flowers looking good into late summer. Deadheading is important too, because if old flowers are not removed as they fade, they will set seed which in turn slows or stops further flowering. There are some fantastic plants for late summer colour such as crocosmia, dahlias, buddleias, zinnias, cosmos, rudbeckia, heleniums, salvia and echinaceas – all fabulous for attracting bees and butterflies into your garden, as well as extending the summer season.
Your ever-changing garden
Gardeners do their bit… for greener gardening
Recently there have been some horrendous weather conditions across the world, causing flooding, forest fires, torrential rain and heatwaves. Gardens are an important part of the natural environment, and gardeners can help to tackle some of the causes and effects of climate change. A few easy steps include feeding your soil fed with garden compost, farmyard manure and mulch, all of which improve the well-being of the soil, which is the ‘engine’ of the garden.
Some of the healthiest soil, high in organic matter, is found in woodlands, where, in Autumn, the leaves fall, decompose, break down and feed the soil and indirectly, the plants too. Healthy soil is also to be found in allotments and gardens up and down the country which have been enriched and fed by the gardeners’ efforts over the years. Plants fight pollution, absorb rainfall and give off oxygen as well as providing food for us and for wildlife, so the more plants you have the more beneficial it is.
Collecting rainfall in waterbutts is another way of conserving water which can be used to water your plants, especially in times of drought and hosepipe bans. After a dry spell, when your water butt is empty, use the opportunity to give it a good clean, to get rid of any dirt or insect larvae which may be lurking.
Support our feathered friends by keeping the birdbath topped up with fresh water, and leaving out a few windfall apples for them. And finally don’t worry if your lawn looks a bit brown and dry – don’t water now, because as soon as the autumn rain comes, the turf will recover and you will be saving water, too.
A few August highlights
Perennial favourites include fuchsia, phlox, penstemons, Japanese anemones with their flowers in pink or white in various heights, good for a semi shady position. Perovskia, with silver stems and masses of lavender coloured flowers loves the sunshine and well-drained soil and is good as part of a Mediterranean style planting scheme. The exotic-looking hardy Hibiscus is an excellent late-flowering shrub with its flowers in blue, pink or white, depending on variety. Another good plant for a sunny position is the salvia: the variety ‘hot lips’ is the most commonly requested, but there are many others available with blue, pink and cream flowers.
For a shady spot, hydrangeas, now back in fashion, cannot be surpassed, flowering in such a wide range of shapes and colours. They do well in containers, just keep your tub in the shade so that the roots don’t heat up, and select the correct compost depending on the flower colour: to keep the flowers blue, grow in ericaceous compost, feed with ericaceous feed and water with rainwater.
August is also primetime for the ornamental grasses, whose seed heads are starting to appear on the stems about now, and they look good growing amongst echinaceas, rudbekias, and heleniums.
Finally, there are the dahlias, with flowers in every shape and size, from golf balls to dinner plates and in every colour (apart from blue, green and black!) which give a lovely subtropical look when grown amongst Cannas, plants from the Ginger family, and ornamental bananas, or Musa.
August is the critical month to feed camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas with a hight potash feed as it’s now when these plants are developing the flower buds for next year. It’s also good to keep them well-watered, preferably with rainwater, as if they dry out they have a tendency to lose next spring’s flower buds.
Continue deadheading roses, for continued blooms through to the Autumn, and a weekly feed of liquid tomato feed also helps.
Vegetables and Herbs
After months of effort and hard work August is the time to relax and enjoy the garden. Even the weeds are having a month off and the lawn is not growing so fast, so sit back, enjoy the warmer weather, harvest your homegrown vegetables and herbs, and feast your eyes on all that glorious summer colour.