Once we reach August, I always feel like the year is speeding up – the summer is rushing by too fast! We need more time to appreciate the lazy, hazy, crazy days! But while we are trying to find moments to appreciate high summer, there are also some jobs that need doing like pruning rambler roses and watering wisely, among other things………
Reviving the ramblers
The rambling roses will have finished flowering now and you should be seeing strong new shoots springing up from the base. These are the stems that will carry your fabulous flower display next summer.
This therefore is the time to prune out at least a third of the old growth (often I cut out even more than this) and tie in the new shoots, if you can reach them. Cut out the old flowered stems unless you know that they are going to carry pretty rosehips in the autumn; if they are, you should cut those stems out early next spring when you do most of your other rose-pruning.
Here’s to the quiet ones
Not really a gardening tip but I was wandering around the garden yesterday, and it occurred to me that there were quite a few plants that I hardly ever think about – they are just THERE. I bet you’ve got some of them too! There they are, selflessly underpinning the glamour-pusses and attention-seekers, quietly adding colour (or at least light and shade) or a variation of pattern or form, without ever shouting about it.
Shrubs can often fall into this category of under-rated plants, but there are other perennials who always seem to get passed over in the stardom stakes, but whose presence adds so much to an overall garden picture.
My list would include Euonymus, marjoram, Hebe, Phlomis, Helleborus foetidus, Artemisia, and Cotoneaster. You could add quite a few more, I’ll be bound.
So let’s hear it for the quiet ones! The unsung heroes and supporting actors of our gardens contributing to the whole. Make sure to include a few on your wish-list when you’re next shopping for plants.
Sowing and watering
Here’s a rather unexpected thing. You can still sow some veg to eat this year! Rocket, lettuce, mizuna, corn salad and oriental leaves can all still be sown on to trays of compost, covered with a thin layer of more compost. Leave the trays in the greenhouse or on a windowsill for about a fortnight until they germinate. Move the seedlings into separate modules when they are big enough to be handled, and then plant them out where you want them to grow, as soon as you have got them used to outside conditions for a few days (hardening off). And don’t forget to sow some more parsley – the leaves will be very handy to enliven dishes over the winter.
Still on the subject of veg, watering has become quite an issue in this summer’s drought, so do it wisely. Overwatering chillies and tomatoes can actually water down their flavour too. So just before harvesting them, halve the amount of water you give them to concentrate the flavours in the fruits.
Conversely, leafy veg like lettuces, spinach etc. will turn bitter if the soil is not always consistently moist. And with peas and beans, you risk the fruit dropping off when the petals fall unless there’s enough water round their roots, so give them a good drink twice a week if the weather is dry.
- This is an excellent time to take cuttings of plants like honeysuckle or hydrangeas – see how to do it in this short video.
- Prune wisteria now – For a knockout flower display next spring, as in the feature pic, cut all the long whippy stems that have developed during this year back to 5 or 6 buds from the main structural branches.
- Lots of us have been experiencing very dry weather recently, and needed to restrict our watering to those plants most in need. If you are able to, try to remember to give a few cans of water to any camellias in your garden, because this is the time when they are setting their buds for next spring. Without sufficient moisture now, they are likely to drop off prematurely before flowering.
NB We have some smashing pocket secateurs ‘on sale’ in our shop this week. You can find them here.
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2 replies on “Get the secateurs out! Grow-how tips for August”
Thanks for the wisteria tip. This past fall I’ve started to rehab an out of control wisteria that never bloomed last year by cutting back to eight or so main branches. Was not sure how far back to cut the multitude of whips that have appeared this year and will definitely trim everything back to the sixth bud from the main branches I established. Any suggestions on what to feed and when to encourage blossoms?
Hi David, Elaine here. Well, we are on pretty good soil here, so our wisteria doesn’t get much in the way of special treatment. It seems pretty happy on the diet of pelleted chicken manure that I sprinkle over the garden each spring. Any general fertiliser would do the same job, I should think. Since it’s flowers that you’re after, I reckon a spring feed of something that is high in potassium (such as tomato fertiliser) would be extremely helpful on poorer or thinner soils. Good luck – I hope it flowers itself silly next year for you!