If you do just one thing…
August is a sleepy month for flowers. In hot weather blooms are shy to open and plants take a rest from the rapid growth of spring – even the vegetables can go on strike! But there are tricks to nudge tired borders back into vibrant life, including watering well along with careful feeding and being brave with the secateurs.
Watering is an art worth doing properly. Too little, too often and plants develop shallow drought-prone roots, so when watering borders, check with a trowel that the top few inches are soaked before putting away the hose and leave to dry before flooding again. Evenings are the best time to irrigate as that way plants slake their thirst without competition from the drying sun. Flood pots and baskets until water runs out of the drainage holes and only add liquid feed after watering so as not to wash away the goodness.
For an instant pick-me-up for yellowing plants use liquid feed, as opposed to slow release granules. Diluted in water the growth-boosting nutrients are immediately available to roots. Use a general feed on flowers, but for crops like cucumbers and melons that crave potash, feed with tomato fertilizer (cucumbers and melons can’t read the label!).
Deadhead roses and bedding regularly. If left, the spent flowers block production of new blooms. While you’ve got the secateurs out prune the wiry side-shoots of wisteria to five leaves from the main branches and snip the spent flowerheads, plus an inch or so of the leaves from the tops of English lavender. They soon regrow into tidy grey domes for winter. With bunny-eared French lavender trim lightly all over between flushes of flower.
Fix bare patches in hedges by training in some of the shaggy spring growth from the sides. When it grows it will fill out the gap. Cut conifer, box and beech now too. Hoe weeds in dry weather, and give borders a good blitz through.
On the veg plot, sow turnips and kohlrabi for nutty roots and parsley, chervil and coriander for autumn and winter pickings. Finally, sow green manures such as bee-friendly Phacelia tanacetifolia in bare patches to soiliflocknutrientsintothe.
And there’s retail therapy too – it’s not too late to buy seeds and flowers to reboot your veg plots and bring zing to your borders. Enjoy!
A plant that does what is says on the tin, blooming from July right through until the frosts. Heleniums hark from the prairies of North America, where the indigenous people used the dried stems to make a sneeze-curing snuff. In the here and now the flowers are a medicine for tired borders, adding a shot of colour and food for the bees. Some helenium are shoulderhigh, but ‘Sahin’s’ is so floriferous it runs out of puff at 2ft so is ideal front and centre of the border. Plant in full sun and divide every few years to keep the clumps fresh.
look after our feathered friends and keep bird baths topped up with fresh water.