August is usually one of the hottest months of the year making watering essential, so you might need to enlist the help of friends and family to look after the garden while you are away. You can always reward them by telling them to help themselves to your vegetable crops which will now be growing in abundance and require regular picking!
August can be a tough month in the garden and summer heat can take its toll. Many cottage garden perennials, such as Hemerocallis, Delphiniums, Nepeta (Cat Mint), Alchemilla (Lady’s Mantle) and Hardy Geraniums will have finished their flowering by now and will look tired and tatty. It’s not too late to cut back some of these perennials, and when doing so you may notice at the base and centre of the plant there is already new growth. After cutting back, and depending on the weather, the plant may or may not flower again, but at least you will have plenty of fresh, lush new foliage to admire.
Powdery mildew can be a problem if plants are dry at their roots as it preys upon plants that are stressed. Powdery mildew is a common fungal disease and can be found on a host of plants including roses, phlox, lonicera (honeysuckle), delphiniums as well as edibles including apples, courgettes and gooseberries. Powdery mildew is a white, dusty coating which can be seen on leaves, stems and flowers, in severe cases plant tissues become twisted/ distorted and growth is stunted. The good news is that powdery mildews usually have a narrow host range comprising of a few related plants, so the powdery mildew that affects your peas is not transferable to your roses. Powdery mildew is easily treated, often just by watering deeply you can halt the fungus, and a healthy plant is more likely to fend of attacks so use a slow release fertiliser such as growmore (don’t be tempted to use a fertiliser that is high in nitrogen, such as miracle grow, as these encourage lots of lush growth that is easily infected). Ornamental plants can be treated with fungicide spray such as Roseclear, edibles can be treated with Resolva Natural Power Bug & Mildew Control. Pick up and destroy all fallen, infected leaves as this will reduce the number of spores that could re-infect the plant next spring. Promptly pruning out infected shoots will also reduce infection, remember to disinfect your secateurs afterwards.
Mulching will help to conserve moisture around the plants roots. For a quick, simple mulch put grass clippings on a plastic sheet and leave for 24hrs. After 24hrs turn the clippings. Once the grass has turned brown you can apply by spreading around each plant. (never cover the crown of a plant). Don’t use grass clippings from lawns that have been recently weed/ moss killed as this could be transferred to your wanted plants! Using grass mulch can attract slugs so do not use near hostas, dahlias or other favorite slug feasts.
Top Tips For August:
• Take cuttings of tender perennials such as Pelargonium and Osteospermum.
• Prune summer flowering shrubs once the flowers have finished, eg Hebe’s and lavender.
• Sow seeds of summer salads, chard, perpetual spinach and hardy bi-annuals including sweet Williams, wallflowers and foxgloves.
• Alpines that have developed bare patches of die-back, or have become weedy, can be tidied up by in-filling the patches with gritty compost. This will also encourage new growth.
Whatever August brings, I hope you are able to enjoy some time relaxing in your garden, or visiting others for inspiration.
Rachel Sobiechowski BSc (Hons) P&R Garden Supplies, Fengate Drove, Brandon 01842 814800 www.p-rgardensupplies.co.uk