August, as the last Summer month, is generally the time when the garden is looking its absolute best and so might seem strange to also be the month when the garden should start preparing to be put to bed, ready for the winter. A few essential maintenance tasks carried out in August means your garden will carry on looking wonderful long into Autumn and will also pay dividends for new plant growth the following Spring. Here, we detail a few ways in which you can help your garden prolong its glory and return fuller and healthier next year.
Deadheading is an important task to encourage your annuals and perennials blooming on into Autumn and stopping them from self-seeding all over the garden. Lilies especially could benefit from a good prune to come back bigger and better next year. Cut at an angle just below the now faded blooms but just above the next healthy leaf pair down. Lavender, beautiful and scented as it is, can take over if allowed to get ‘leggy’. Trim it back once finished blooming to keep it compact in size and shape. When deadheading, collect any seeds from the heads and store in the dark in labelled sterile jars until ready to plant if you’d like to grow more. Be careful though not to spread any seeds when deadheading if you do not want random plants throughout your garden!
Don’t panic if your lawn appears a bit brown and fried after the heat of the summer – the Autumn rains will soon fall, and lush green grass will return. This is the time when the lawn begins to slowdown in growth so bear this in mind when cutting – you might need to raise the blades of the lawnmower to compensate. An Autumn fertiliser can be applied towards the end of August to keep the grass fed with nutrients – make sure any fertiliser you use isn’t high in nitrogen or you’ll encourage lots of new growth which will then be damaged by the harshness of winter.
Pruning Bushes, Shrubs and Hedges
Bushes, shrubs, and hedges can be pruned and trimmed back now as their growth will have slowed right down and they will only grow a small amount more before the winter. Whilst a light pruning for shape and form will suffice for many bushes and shrubs, any plants that have lost their leaves or become spindly can be cut even further back to encourage them to return next year, fuller and healthier. Don’t be afraid to cut back fairly near to the ground – they will return. Deadhead any faded flowers. Wisteria’s are generally pruned twice a year and August is one of those times. The whippy green shoots need to be taken back to encourage flowering (rather than just leaf growth) and helps keeps the size of the Wisteria under control.
Weeds can be the bane of the gardener’s life as they jostle for position (and often win!) in the garden amongst the other plants. They steal vital water and nutrients from the soil and can completely take over if left. Although becoming weaker after their fast vigorous growth during the warmth of the Summer, August is when many weeds begin to go to seed, and this spells further trouble. Gently remove weeds from the soil with a hoe, if possible, to prevent dislodging the seeds. Dig out the roots of the weeds determined to cling on for dear life to prevent them from returning. If you’d rather use a weedkiller, use one that is glyphosate-based to fight resistant weeds.
General Maintenance Tasks
Keep on top of watering, especially your pots and containers until the heat of the summer is gone and the rains take over. Evergreen plants should be given a thorough watering to encourage future healthy bud formation. Herbs can be cut back so that you can enjoy a further cropping before the Autumn frosts come and roses, such as ramblers and climbers can be pruned now (again, don’t be afraid to cut back hard), ready to return with a beautiful display next year. For the thrifty gardener, August is the perfect time to take cuttings from a Fuchsia or Hydrangea, for example, for more (free!) plants to propagate for next year.
We hope this article has been helpful in outlining the essential August garden tasks and provided some useful tips too!