What to do in August

Spring is round the corner, just past those blizzards and those frosts, but it is there. So now’s the time to start getting ready for spring’s grand appearance. Here is what you want to be doing to prepare.

  • Chit your potatoes. Put potatoes in a light frost free place, a cool windowsill is perfect. When they have a couple of cms of growth they are ready to plant. Click here to learn more about planting and growing potatoes.
  • You will need to finish your winter pruning by the end of the month. As by then the sap in all the dormant trees will be starting to flow faster, getting energy for bud burst. If you haven’t pruned your fruit trees, click here for some tips on pruning fruit trees. Or here for pruning wisteria.
  • It is also your last chance to plant deciduous trees and shrubs as in September root growth will be well under way.

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  • If you are growing them for intense colour prune dogwoods (Cornus) and willow (Salix) to their bases. This encourages lots of new growth which is more intensely coloured than old growth. You can also prune back pollarded willow, which looks incredible in maturity.
  • Asparagus crowns are becoming available now. There is still debate about when to plant them, some plant now with no problems. However as the weather has been so wet and cold this year I would probably wait until the end of September or October when conditions are more favourable. Young plants are not as tough as older plants, just because your older asparagus is still among us this winter doesn’t mean young asparagus roots will survive. At any rate soil that is free draining is a must, so add sand and lime to your asparagus bed before planting.
  •   You can use cloches to warm soil before sowing early vegetables like broad beans, carrots, peas and parsnips. Resist the temptation to grow tomatoes indoors until the very end of the month or September. Growing on a window sill for too long will cause seedlings to reach for light, making them long and leggy and often pale.

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  • Beautiful Hellebores are flowering now. They really are a beacon of light in the darkness of the winter. Hellebores enjoy dry soil in a shady spot and will grow wonderfully under deciduous trees. Give them a good helping of leaf mulch in autumn and a mulch of bark chippings in spring.
  • Primula are also starting to send out their dainty flowers. Primula like primula vulgaris are woodland plants and enjoy the shelter of trees in summer but the sun in winter. Again a good leaf mulch in autumn and bark mulch in spring will keep them happy and flowering away. They may even spread by seed.
  • Spring bulbs will be poking up now and you may even have some flowers on early flowering bulbs such as crocus and muscari. If you missed the bulb bandwagon don’t worry we’ll have some potted bulbs.
  • Sweet peas and hardy annuals can be sown now. They do best with a chilling period but seedlings will still suffer from cold damage. Growing in a cold frame is best and pinch out tips when two sets of leaves have developed to make a sturdier plant. Try out varieties you haven’t grown before, maybe lipstick or liquorice. There is a shade of sweet pea for every garden
  • Scent is everywhere this month with Sarcococca confusa, Daphne bholua and Hamamelis all in flower. Each of these plants are highly scented to a point that it fills the air in a sheltered space. Sarcococca confusa or Sweet box is in my opinion one of the best shrubs at 1m by 1m it will fit into any garden. It likes dry shade, a problem spot in every garden. But most of all it flowers when not much else will with an intoxicating scent that will make you want to bring inside. For the rest of the year it still looks fantastic, it’s glossy evergreen foliage and compact growth makes it a very smart plant. I don’t know why it’s not more popular, I wish its scent was everywhere.

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