August 2020 Column

Updated: Sep 6

Some of my favourite memories of gardening are those very early August mornings or late evenings, in the month of Summer Holidays. The cool of the dawn or sun setting draws long shadows across the beds. Jobs don’t feel so urgent or exhausting without the beating sun on the back of my neck and I adore the still part of the day quietly working by myself.


After the rapid growth of July, slowed by half in August, and half again in September, the garden gently retreats and so weeding, tidying up plants, staking and dead heading will make all the difference to your borders as the summer unrolls.


Cut late spring and early summer plants down to allow others space to bloom. Alchemilla Mollis (Lady’s Mantle), Delphiniums, Californian Poppies and Astrantia will all appreciate reduced to the ground, a good water (and a little seaweed or comfrey feed) plus compost and you may be rewarded with flowers again in September.


Cosmos, dahlias and chrysanthemums need to be staked as the plants tower over the bed. An August storm will batter plants and I have been devastated more than once when they have been bashed and broken to a pile of stems in a summer deluge. To support plants, we love rebar, (metal poles for reinforcing concrete) that rust and disappear along the plants for staking heaving stems or hazel branches pushed in around the base.


Keep dead heading and cutting flowers deep into the plants as often as you can and encourage more come. Water thoroughly once a week, add a capful of organic liquid feed to your can, encouraging roots deep down into the soil for ground water and anchoring the plants as opposed to weaker sappy growth from shallow roots.


As always, we have an eye on the future, sowing for the winter and following year. In the kitchen garden we are continuing to sow radishes, spring onions and lettuces. At the end of the month we move to growing winter salads, with Winter Purslane being my top recommendation. It self sows, is very hardy and full of vitamin c. Rocket, Mizuna and Mustards add colour and flavour all winter. They prefer cooler weather to germinate so we will start them in trays in the shade and plant out when they are ready.


Getting ahead now, sowing perennials and annuals for next year, will give you earlier, larger and more prolific flowers. If you have space, direct sow into position (the quickest and easiest way) or into pots to plants out later this autumn. Cornflowers, Ammi, Calendula, Nigella, larkspur will all reward you handsomely next June, maybe May. But also Orlya, Daucus and perennials like Astrantia, Echinacea and Ecinops will continue to flower for many years, all from a few plants sown in pots now. Plant out in the Autumn when the roots fill the pot. These plants will flower for much of the summer, and for years to come.


August is both a forgiving and optimistic month in the garden. Anything done now to tend the plants will do much for flowering and a few seeds sown will set you well ahead for the future.