Gardening In August with Geoff Carr

Geoff Carr gives us tips on how to make our garden move with the times! Find out more about Geoff here.

Knowing when to prune and cut back plants can seem to be a bewildering challenge which is made even harder as the range of plants available to buy continues to expand. However, getting to know your plants is one of the great joys of horticulture because it leads to a greater understanding of what is going on in the garden and what part you can play in making it all work harmoniously. Rampant weeds are slightly less bothersome at this time of year so if you want to spend time researching your plants and how to look after them now is a good time to get out the reference and identification books. Now is also pruning time for summer-flowering plants such deutzia, philadelphus, weigela and all those who flowered in May, June and July.  Cut them back as soon as they finish flowering; remove any shoots that look too long, then cut to the ground about one third of the oldest stems.  In three years the plant will have been completely regenerated and ready for the health giving pruning cycle to begin all over again.

If you want to increase your stock of plants you can take cuttings now from such specimins as Abutilion, Brugmansia, Aeonium, Solenostemon , salvias, heliotropes, pelargonium’s and fuchsias.

Another job to do in August is ensuring container grown camellias do not dry out. They are using a huge amount of energy now to form next year’s flower buds and will benefit from a liquid feed that’s specifically for camellias. Hedges can be trimmed now but be careful not to cut back beyond the foliage of laylandii, they don’t break from old wood in the same way as yew or privet.

In the veg garden, plant new strawberry plants, sow spring greens, Japanese onions and salad crops too. Stop outdoor tomatoes after four fruit trusses have set; pinch out the growing tip at the top of the plant. It’s worth doing this because more fruit will not ripen in time and the plants energy can be diverted into improving the fruit that is viable.

Continue to deadhead roses and also trim back lavender. Lavender plants do not last for a long time and need replacing when they become straggly, usually every 5 to 6 years if you really want to maintain a healthy and neat looking display. To prune lavender, go over the plants with shears or scissors, cutting off old flower spikes and leaves back to about an inch above where the new growth is visible. For a free supply of new plants to replace the straggly old ones take cuttings now too. Plants to take cuttings from now include: – lavender, berberis, buddlejas, box, ceanothus, choisya, cistus, cytisus, heathers, escallonia, hebes, philadelphus, potentilla, pyracantha, santolina and viburnums. Some plants are producing their seeds at this time of year and it can be very rewarding to gather them up for planting either in pots or directly into the ground where you want them to grow next year.

There is always something positive that can be done in the garden and August is a good month for doing more than mowing the grass or pulling the weeds.

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