The August Garden
This is a month to gird your loins and start dreaming of what you're going to do in spring. Don't try doing much yet. It's too early.
Potatoes can be put in now- they won't start to sprout for six weeks, and by that time the frosts should be over.
Peas can be planted - but coat the seeds in cooking oil in case they rot in cold soil. Dust them with white pepper after oiling if you're worried by snails.
You'll still be picking the same old veg as last month- but there'll be new shoots of the brocolli now (don't just pick the main bunch- keep picking all the little bits that follow), more brussel sprouts, and cauliflowers will be starting to form centres. In warm areas you might just get the odd spring of asparagus. Start gorging on winter root vegies now like carrots and beetroot, before they go to seed when the weather warms up.
Lay down weed mat for next month's gardens; build no dig beds; don't be in a hurry though to pull out last year's debris to make room for new crops- the debris will protect the remaining plants from late frost.
. clean up piles of rubbish (dowse them with hen manure or blood and bone and hope they turn into compost); pick off all dried fruit mummies that may infect next seasons crops
. restrain yourself! The air may smell all spring like, but the soil is still cold. Wait till the ground is comfortable to sit on before you plant out beds of spring veg and flowers
. put pots of bloomers now on warm patios or windowsills- petunias, geranium/pelargoniums, nasturtiums, calendulas, impatiens.
. water- your garden is probably drier than you think, even in this cool weather
. feed bulbs with a high phosphorous fertiliser for great blooms next season
. mow as soon as the lawn looks uneven. The earliest growth will be weeds, not grass- knock them back now by chopping off their heads before they seed.
. if you get hay fever ask someone else to mow your lawn and spread your mulch. Use a drier for your sheets too- pollens can cling to wet sheets, and you don't want to sleep all wrapped up in pollen.
How to give a shrub a hair cut
August is THE pruning month. Most shrubs look better if regularly trimmed- and new growth is usually more pest and disease hardy.
Winter flowering shrubs: cut out straggly growth, trim off flowers just behind the dead flowers. Most native plants do well with a light 'tip prune' every spring
Summer flowering shrubs: buddleia, fuchsias, santolina, lavatera all flower best on new growth made in spring. Trim back straggly branches to the base or main stem. Prune back hibiscus, tibouchina oleander heliotrope and other shrubs now too.
Hedges: trim then back till they're neat but don't cut back into bare wood past the leafing area, or the branch will probably die back.
Climbers: give winter flowering jasmines good hair cut- cut out straggly growth and trim it all back by about a third. Prune summer flowering jasmines by taking out some of the major stems- if you just give them a haircut you'll end up with a shaggy mess.
Hanging Baskets with Difference
By the 10th of August every year I'm pining to plant spring flowers, even if the garden still feels like a glacier has come to visit. So I compromise- the veg and flower seedlings stay in their punnets till the soil warms up, but I do plant out a few hanging baskets.
Baskets by sunny walls keep their plants much warmer than plants in the soil, so even in cold areas you can risk a basket of petunias and impatiens. Or think about some different combinations this season!
.red stemmed rhubarb with masses of white alyssum
.frothy parsley or basil around your potted fuchsias-all three need lots of feeding and moisture, and the basil will help keep pests from the fuchsias
. pansies and strawberries- the berries nestle happily among the flowers
. plant succulent cuttings (see below). Many will sprawl delightfully over the edges, and they'll forgive you if you forget to water, too.
. ornamental grasses and yuccas also look great in baskets- and most tolerate lots of neglect, heat and dryness.
What to Plant in August
Useful tip: the world's most fabulous investment has to be a choko vine. Choose a sunny spot where the vine can ramble over fences or trees, then plant a choko with its top just at soil level .
You'll get maybe 100 chokos each year in return- or more. What's that, a 10,000% return per annum?
Frost free climates
Good tucker plants: Fruit trees like limes, tropical apples, avocados, grape, choko, sweet potato and passionfruit vines, seeds of amaranth, artichoke, asparagus, basil, burdock, carrots, celery, chilli, corn , celeriac, choko, collards, eggplant, gourds, kale, leeks, lettuce, mustard greens, okra, onion, parsnip, parsley, peas, pumpkin, radish, rockmelon, salsify, shallots, silverbeet, tomato, watermelon, zucchini
Plants for beauty: any ornamental shrub in the nursery! Seeds or seedlings of alyssum, Californian poppy, calendula, cleome, coleus, gerbera, helichrysum, honesty, impatiens, kangaroo paw, marigold, pansy, petunias, phlox, salvia, sunflower, Swan River daisy, torenia, zinnia,
Good tucker plants: any fruit tree, vine or shrub, bare rooted or evergreen, seeds or seedlings of baby carrots, beetroot, lettuce, parsnip, peas, radish, swede, turnips, celery, celeriac, leek, lettuce, onions, mizuna, mitsuba, seed potatoes, rocket, silverbeet, spinach. Pots of tomatoes or chilli plants can be grown on a warm sunny patio.
Plants for beauty: seeds or seedlings of alyssum, calendula, heartsease, lunaria, bellis perennis, Californian poppy, English daisy, evening primrose, Iceland poppy, love lies bleeding, primulas, pansies, polyanthus, Iceland poppies, viola. For a touch of early colour pots of petunias or impatiens should stay warm on a sunny patio.
Good tucker plants: last chance this year for bare rooted fruit trees , gooseberries, currants, grape vines. Plant seedlings of onions, cauliflower, collards, kale, mustard greens, peas, salad greens like mizuna, mitsuba, spinach, also rhubarb crowns, artichoke suckers, asparagus plants and seed potatoes. Plant early tomatoes, zucchini, melons and pumpkins in pots on a sunny windowsill to give them a head start.
Plants for beauty: seedlings of alyssum, bellis perennis, calendula, Californian poppy, Iceland poppies, lunaria, primula, pansy, stock, sweet peas