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Gardening with Mick - August

As I write there is a soft gentle rain falling, it must be summer. I was going to introduce a minted lamb chop to the barbecue but it will have to wait. Looks like I will be having a salad sandwich for my tea. The big thing in August is water, if we have a decent month it is usually dry, if so don’t let your plants dry out especially fruit, hanging baskets and pot plants.

When you water pots or baskets make sure you feed after watering or you will just wash the feed away and always water to the soil/compost not over the plant.

Outdoor tomatoes are ready now as are other outdoor fruit. Tomatoes, cucumbers etc. grown outdoors tend to have a tougher skin, this is because they are protecting themselves from lower temperatures. The tougher skin is of no detriment and can easily be peeled away if you dislike it.

There should be some very juicy late variety strawberries ready now so go and get a glass of champagne and a bucket of ice, put the hoe down and relax with strawberries in champers. After you have woken up and realised you are dreaming it is time to get on with the hoeing.

There will still be plenty of weeds about in August and I like to hoe them and leave them to rot in to the garden unless they are carrying seed heads which in August they can be.

Speaking of seeds there should be ripe seeds on many of your plants now and if so collect them in a paper bag, label them with type, colour and year and store for a while until they are perfectly dry. If they need drying out spread them on a newspaper. Do not collet them in a polythene bag they will rot. If you have a small pond the water can evaporate so be prepared to top up but do so very gently. It is best to spray water on to the surface as this helps to oxygenate as well as increase the water levels. If you have a fountain this will tend to do the job for you but it is still worth checking the temperature and slowly adding some cooler water if required as I don’t have a recipe for boiled goldfish or Coi carp. August is the end of summer and plant growth really starts to slow down. If you have not completed your summer pruning now is the time.

There should be less regrowth on cut hedges and they will only need a maximum of one trim after August. There are so many flowers and shrubs in full bloom at the moment that the garden should look a picture. Lavender will need trimming back now. The advice usually given is to take 1” off the top. I am a firm believer in taking the top half of the plant off to stimulate new growth. It has worked for me for 60 years.

If you want free plants for next year start taking semi ripe cuttings, propagate over winter in a cold frame or frost free corner. Check for a root system next spring and plant out, not only is it a free plant but it is very satisfying to do. If you want to propagate clematis you do it by layering. Peg a shoot, preferably from low on the plant, in to the ground or a pot of compost and again leave it until spring. If it has rooted, and it should have, sever it between the new plant and the old. Bingo, a free clematis that would cost a pretty penny at the garden centre.

If we have had a damp spell check for slug damage. I know it sounds like sacrilege but one of the best slug traps is beer. Put a little in a can lid or saucer and watch them go for it. It doesn’t kill them but it does make them brave enough to pick a fight with a blackbird. There is only one winner there. Bulbs, yes it is time to start getting your winter bulbs in.

Plant daffodils and narcissus towards the end of the month or early next month. The general rule for planting a bulb is 3 times its own depth, if you are not sure plant a little deeper. Always mark where you have planted them, it wouldn’t be the first time I have gone to make a planting and found I am digging up bulbs that are just sprouting.

Harvesting your crops will be a massive task this and next month. If you have hard fruit, apples, pears etc. they should definitely start to be available for picking by the end of the month. Be very gentle with them if you intend to store them for later use as bruised fruit will rot very quickly and encourage others that are stored with it to do.

August was my late wife's birthday and in the middle of my lawn I have had a Betula Jaqumontii (ghost birch) planted to remind me of Jacqui. So I am going to raise a glass of zero alcohol beer to Jacqui and say happy gardening to you all. Mick


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