Delicious in salads and sandwiches, the crisp, sweet crunch of a cucumber is one of the joys of summer.
Gardening in August
August is often one of the hottest and driest months of the year, reliably bringing the summer to a glorious close. An abundance of warm and dry weather means that there is a lot to do to keep our gardens looking at their best. Watering becomes a critical activity as we give plants a helping hand in the heat, the vegetable patch is cropping heavily, and the lawn is in full use as a place to relax in the sun.
What to plant and do in August?
August is a great time to enjoy the best of your garden, but there are still plenty of jobs to do. Whether you want to know what vegetables, plants or seeds to plant in August, discover our essential tips for August gardening.
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What vegetables to plant in August
August is the perfect time to think about quick- growing plants which can be picked before the year comes to an end. These seeds can be sown straight into soil outside, filling the gaps left by previous harvests:
- Florence (bulb) fennel
- Lettuce (Lamb’s lettuce, mizuna, mustard)
- Pak Choi
- Spring cabbage
- Spring onions (winter varieties)
They will give you a crop into late Autumn and beyond.
Plant out any remaining kale, winter/spring cauliflowers and winter cabbage plants, if you have them.
What vegetables to harvest in August
August is wonderful time in the vegetable garden. Your efforts from earlier in the year really pay off, and you could be harvesting any or all of the following:
- Broad Beans
- Chilli peppers
- French Beans
- Globe artichokes
- Runner beans
- Summer cabbage
- Sweet peppers
Vegetable plant maintenance in August
Whilst you are harvesting crops from the vegetable patch, it’s worth doing the following too:
- Asparagus - monitor closely for asparagus beetle, which will weaken future crops. Remove by hand, and if you aren’t squeamish… squish them.
- Aubergines - remove the top growing point to allow the plant to divert its energy into the developing fruit.
- Beetroot - thin out plants gradually so that each has about 8cm (3in) of growing space. Use the leaves as they are, and grate smaller roots into salads.
- Broad Beans - once they have finished cropping, cut the plants to ground level. The roots will decay in the soil and provide a source of nitrogen to other plants.
- Celery - water well, surround the stalks with newspaper and then earth up with soil.
- Courgettes - pick when they are about 10cm (4in) long and before they have a chance to turn into marrows. Water well and use a tomato feed on them every fortnight.
- French & Runner Beans - continue to harvest to help the plant produce more pods. Water well in dry weather and add a mulch of compost or grass clippings afterwards to conserve moisture.
- Peas - protect from birds by covering with netting, or dangle shiny objects nearby which will move in the wind to deter them.
- Sweetcorn - tap the stems of each plant every week to help pollination.
- Blight can devastate tomato and potato crops at this time of year. Look out for brown patches on plants. Remove affected plant material immediately before it can spread to the edible parts of the plant.
- Hoe the vegetable patch to reduce competition from weeds for moisture. Hand weed asparagus, carrots and beetroot as they can be easily damaged.
What fruit to plant in August
While there aren’t a lot of fruits that you can plant in August, strawberries can be planted in August to be overwintered and then produce larger crops in the summer.
What fruit to harvest in August
There are so many different fruits ripening in August. Relish eating them fresh from the plant, still warm from the summer sun. Depending on the variety grown, all of the following fruit can be harvested this month:
- Autumn raspberries
Most will not store well unless frozen, dried or cooked. There should be plenty more to come however, so enjoy them straight from the plant whilst thinking about what you might do with any surpluses.
Fruit plant maintenance in August
Wandering around the garden picking your homegrown fruit is also a good chance to check the same plants for pests and diseases. Some of the following may be noticeable at this time of year:
- Birds - net figs and late varieties of cherries to protect them from pecking.
- Brown rot - a fungal disease that can affect many different types of fruit. It can spread quickly. Remove any affected material, and plan to prune later in the year to improve air circulation.
- Codling moth caterpillars - damages apples and pears, you may find an exit hole on the fruit, and further tunnelling towards the centre. Pheromone traps should be used in the spring to trap the moths before they lay eggs on fruit.
- Wasps - if these are a problem, create a wasp trap to draw them away from the fruit. Pierce holes in the lid of an old jam jar, add a dollop of jam to the jar, put the top on and leave nearby - and away from areas you will visit frequently.
Well-timed pruning of fruit is important to keep the plants productive. August is the correct time to prune:
- Supported apple and pear trees, for example cordons and espalier trained plants. Doing this in the summer helps to direct new growth in a way that retains the intended shape.
- Plum trees are best pruned when in full growth, and not in colder months when cuts can introduce disease.
- Remove Summer-fruiting raspberry canes which produced fruit earlier in the year. Those canes will be brown and woody. Newer canes are green and should be thinned to about 25cm (10in) apart.
Other activities to keep you busy in the fruit patch in August include:
- Sever runners from old strawberry plants and move the new plants to a different location if the bed looks crowded. Strawberry plants need about 30cm (12in) space between them.
- Check netting on fruit bushes to ensure it is taut and secure enough to keep birds away from the fruit.
- Cut back foliage on grape vines to allow the sun to ripen bunches of fruit.
- Water any new fruit bushes and trees in spells of very hot weather. It is important that they can establish well to give you many years of productivity.
- Feed citrus plants, such as lemons and kumquats, with a special citrus plant food.
What trees & shrubs to plant in August
Any plants which have been container grown can be planted out now, although they will need careful attention to survive the demands of a hot summer. Container-grown plants which you could plant out now include:
If you can wait until later in the year to plant perennials, they will need less care and maintenance, leaving you free to concentrate on other activities in the garden.
What trees & shrubs to prune in August
- Wisteria should be summer pruned to make sure that it does not start to enter crevices in walls and guttering. Remove any lateral shoots at the base and any straggly growth.
- Choisya, Lavender, Nepeta and Weigela should be pruned to a tidy shape, once they have finished flowering.
- Alchemilla, Delphinums and Hardy geraniums can be cut back to remove browning leaves.
Trees & shrubs maintenance in August
Watering and weeding are the main activities to concentrate on in August:
- Newly planted container-grown perennials should be well watered in dry spells.
- Established perennial plants should only be watered only in very dry spells. They already have strong root systems that can withstand a period of drought.
- Bindweed can be a nuisance in established borders and should be removed as soon as you see it. The beautiful flowers can make it seem worth keeping, but there are other species of Convolvulus which are just as pretty but non-invasive.
- Keep on top of weeds by lightly hoeing the soil around shrubs. Do this on a sunny day to allow the weather to dry and shrivel them.
Deadhead plants to encourage them to produce new flowers. Cut the flowerhead back to the nearest next flower bud. This will help the plant to produce more flowers.
What roses to plant in August
Roses grown in containers can be planted out in August. They can be moved to larger, more ornate containers, or planted out into a border to provide a beautiful scent whenever you past them.
There are a few simple things you can do to help a new rose settle into its home stress-free:
- Select an appropriate location for the rose. Many roses thrive in the sun, but varieties are available which suit other conditions, such as particularly shady spots.
- Water the soil before planting and add plenty of compost.
- Make sure that the hole or container which you will plant the rose in is several inches deeper and wider than the roots of the rose.
- Tease the roots from the container to encourage them to spread.
- Loosely tie the rose to a cane inserted into the soil, to provide it with extra support.
- Water well in the dry heat of August, first thing in the morning or in the evening.
There are many types of rose to choose from, depending on the space and location you have in mind.
What roses to prune in August
Rambling roses should be cut back by removing about a third of the plant. The remaining branches should be tied into wire supports which are fixed against a wall.
Here is plenty of useful guidance about how to prune roses.
Rose maintenance in August
August is a time to be vigilant in the rose garden. Dry heat as well as humidity can create ideal conditions for a number of damaging pests and diseases. Look out for the following:
- Aphids - often the first noticeable sign is an unsightly black ‘soot’ on leaves. This is a mould growing on sticky excretions left by aphids which have been busy sucking sap from the rose. The aphids particularly enjoy newer growth, such as buds and young leaves. Squash them, encourage predators such as ladybirds and lacewings, or spray to control.
- Blackspot - a fungal disease which causes black marks on the leaves, and sometimes yellowing on the wider leaf. Leaves can drop off entirely. This problem can be very damaging to roses, seriously inhibiting their development. Do not compost material from any roses which you think may have this disease, as you risk spreading it around the garden. Spray with a treatment specifically aimed at controlling rose problems.
- Large rose sawfly - look out for sawflies, their eggs and larvae. Encourage birds to the garden, which will feast on them.
- Powdery mildew - a fungal disease which causes white growth on the rose. It can damage long buds, meaning fewer flowers on the rose. Prune in the autumn and winter to increase air flow around the plant.
Roses can be made more resilient by providing them with a specialist feed. This will also prolong the flowering period and keep the leaves looking lush and green in the summer sun.
Encourage more blooms by continuing to deadhead roses. Cut back to the next bud behind any dead flowers.
Flowers & bulbs
Plant bulbs and bulb-like corms now for a colourful display in the autumn. Plant them into pots or well-drained soil where they will receive plenty of sunlight:
- Autumn-flowering Crocus
Seeds of Centauria (Cornflowers), pansies and violas can also be sown now.
Flower & bulb maintenance in August
August is a very busy time in the garden. Thankfully the weather is usually warm and dry, so maintaining flowers and bulbs can be a good excuse to spend extra time outside in the garden:
- Stake tall plants which are top heavy, such as dahlias and lilies. This protects them from snapping in strong winds, and means that the tubers, bulbs and root systems are not damaged by excessive movement.
- Water flowers and bulbs in containers. The heat of August can quickly dry out pots. Water early in the morning or later in the evening, once they are no longer in direct sunlight.
- Hanging baskets can be taken down in the evening and placed in a tray of water to help them take up water overnight.
- Collect seeds from plants which you want to grow again next year, such as sweet peas, poppies, love-in-a-mist and any wildflower areas. The seeds should be dry and should rattle in their pods when you shake them.
- Monitor for pests and diseases, such as lily beetles on lilies and fritillaries. These will strip plants very quickly, so destroy them by squishing any that you find.
Lawn maintenance in August
Mowing your lawn in August:
- Rake the lawn before you mow it. This helps the lawn mower to reach the weeds.
- Mow weekly to encourage grass roots to regenerate themselves. This will encourage a thicker sward and mean it is more resilient to extremes of weather.
- Cut to a height of 5cm long or more. This will help to protect the grass in very dry weather.
- Leave the lawn clippings on the grass if you can. This helps the lawn to retain moisture and provides a useful source of nitrogen for the grass.
- Strim any areas where you allowed wildflowers to grow, as these will now be past their best.
Watering your lawn:
- Water the lawn in spells of very dry weather to keep it looking green and lush. However, avoid using a sprinkler unless you are able to move it around frequently, as this can unnecessarily saturate the soil and discourage new grass from rooting strongly.
- Don’t panic if your lawn goes brown in the heat of summer. It will recover in the autumn.
- Aerate the lawn using a garden fork to help air and moisture to reach grass roots.
Problems to look out for:
- Weed out dandelions with a daisy grubber, which pulls the long taproot from the soil. Dandelions seed themselves freely and create competition for the grass to reach moisture and essential nutrients.
- Monitor for leatherjackets and treat if a nuisance.
- Keep lawn edges neat and crisp with edging shears. This above all else makes the garden look noticeably tidier.
- Sow fresh grass seed in shallow pots or trays to fill any bare patches later in the autumn.
Find your local store and start growing your garden.