Saturday, 12 August 2017

Six things to do in your garden during August

There is plenty to do in my garden right now. The weather is still warm, but here in South Wales we've had plenty of rain as well as some sunshine, and that combination means everything is growing strongly. There are all the routine tasks of deadheading and pruning to keep everything form getting out of control. And here are some other jobs I've been doing in my garden that you may not have thought of, but which will be worthwhile doing if they apply to your garden.

The idea of six things comes from The Propagator. Check his blog for six things going on in his garden. Here are mine: 

War on Slugs

Sunflower eaten by slugs Green Fingered Blog
Happy slugs, sad sunflower

Sometimes gardening is about perseverance. I seem to have taken my eye off the ball lately when it comes to slug patrol. Not a good time to do this, as it's been continually damp in the garden. It's amazing that slugs and snails can climb to the top of sunflowers, five feet off the ground, but the slimy silvery trails tell the tale. Looks like no sunflowers this year. Dahlias and eryngiums in the garden, and lettuce and beans on the allotment, have all been devoured.

Dahlia eaten by slugs Green Fingered Blog
A devoured dahlia - not pretty
I've been experimenting with alternatives to the blue chemical pellets for slug control. They are harmful to frogs, toads and hedgehogs, and I would rather such creatures thrived and controlled the slugs without recourse to chemicals. I tried the wool pellets and these seemed effective at first but appear to need replenishing very frequently, which works out quite expensive. I will use them again, but am currently trying some other pellets which are certified as organic and said to be much less harmful to other animals, though this is not universally accepted. It would be nice to have some assurance that by trying to kill pests like slugs and snails, we gardeners are not harming anything else. Follow me on twitter and you'll no doubt see the results of the different methods I try. I'm also planning ways of encouraging frogs and toads in particular to come to my garden and eat the slugs for me. This could be a project for autumn or winter ready for next year. 

Thinning Grapes

Bunches of grapes need to be thinned Green Fingered Blog
Fewer grapes should mean bigger grapes
I have a cracking crop of grapes this year. I grow the vine primarily for the effect of it wrapping the pergola in elegant hand sized leaves and any edible fruits are a bonus. The pruning last winter/spring seems to have done the trick, and the weather during the first part if the summer really encouraged it, and I counted more than 60 bunches of grapes forming at one point.
If you are growing a vine, the real challenge is to nurture the fruits in the second half of summer so that they have an opportunity to reach a decent size, and then ripen. I had a few bunches of small grapes last year and I'm hoping for better this time. I've removed some of the bunches altogether, though probably not enough - it's so hard to be ruthless enough to dispose of what appear to be perfectly well developing grapes! The fewer grapes there are, the bigger the remaining ones can get as they benefit from more of the plant's resources. On the bunches that are left I've removed all the smallest ones form each bunch, hopefully leaving enough, but not too many, that will reach a reasonable size by harvest time. I think I was more ruthless with this stage so fingers crossed. Just need the sun to return now to get them ripe before the weather cools down too much. If you want to know how my grapes turn out, then subscribe to the Green Fingered Blog by entering your email address, and you'll get all my future updates.

Viburnum Boost

Viburnum damage to foliage Green Fingered Blog
Viburnum before
Another pest I've had to deal with is the viburnum beetle. At least I think that's what's causing the problem. I haven't actually seen any, but both my Viburnums, one a V. tinus and one a V. macrophyllum have been severely munched, and nothing around them has been affected, so I suspect a viburnum specialist is responsible. I don't want to resort to spraying anything except as a very last resort, so more perseverance is needed.
Healthy viburnum foliage after treatment Green Fingered Blog
Viburnum after
I cut off lots of the affected foliage which looks terrible, leaving the remaining plant looking just as terrible, but I fed it with a liquid feed of diluted sulphate of ammonia to encourage regrowth of the leaves. I actually did this a couple of weeks ago and the results are encouraging as you can see from the second pic. This won't have eliminated the beetle, but seems to have strengthened the plant and enabled it to repair the damage done. It certainly looks better. This is a regular occurrence so I will repeat the treatment every couple of months or so to keep the viburnums looking healthy.


Pruning Wisteria

Wisteria sinensis before summer pruning Green Fingered Blog
Wisteria before pruning
This is a job that is usually recommended for July, but my Wisteria provided a second flush of beautiful and fragrant racemes of flowers during July, so I waited until they finished before cutting it back. Pruning is crucial to good flowering of wisteria. They need to be cut back in midsummer and again before they come into growth in January or February. This keeps what can become a very large plant to the size and shape you want it, and encourages good flowering. In summer it's covered in long whippy shoots sticking out in all directions.
Wisteria sinensis Green Fingered Blog
Pruning wisteria Green Fingered BlogCut back untidy stems to a few inches long. Always cut back to a node, at an angle so water runs off the cut end. Wisteria sinensis after pruning Green Fingered BlogPruning Wisteria Green Fingered BlogThen cut as many shoots as you can back to the 3rd or 4th bud from the base. It'll be much tidier, but will also encourage the flowers. In winter you cut these stems back by another couple of buds. This is where flowers will develop in spring.

Adding Late Summer Colour to Cottage Garden Borders

Mixed colour flower border in June Green Fingered Blog
The Rainbow bed in June
My main flower border is planted mainly with perennials to a rainbow colour scheme, from blue at one end through purple, red and orange to yellow at the opposite end. This is achieved with tulips and wallflowers in spring, and various perennials in early summer. It looked great from April to the end of June, but now there are gaps appearing and there's a general lack of colour compared to before. It's time to replenish it.
I've taken out the Kniphofias. There was a red one, an orange one and a yellow one, but it's too moist here for them to do well. After the first year they have hardly flowered at all. I've dug them up, divided them, and will grow them in pots. Hopefully that way I'll get some sort of display from them. They might look good in the front garden in pots, amongst the gravel. I've also cut back the Acanthus spinosa. This looked great last year but shows no sign of flowering this year, no doubt sue to the fact that it is so vigorous I have had to cut it back regularly to prevent it shading everything else out. It needs a bigger spot, but I'm not sure where yet.

I've added a extra splash of dark blue with Salvia "Caradonna", red at the front with Sweet William "Barbarini Red" and yellow with Argyranthemum "Yellow eye". These will hopefully take over from the achilleas, lupins, day lilies and geum that have now faded. I actually added another geum as well. It was in the clearance section at the garden centre and should turn out to be a bargain. I already have "Totally Tangerine" and "Blazing Sunset" should give some bright red at the back of the border where it is needed earlier in the season.

Lantana Red Green Fingered Blog
Red Lantana
The Sweet Williams got eaten by slugs quite soon after planting, and I found the perfect plant to take their place: Lantana Red. What I like about them is that they are orange flowers when they first open, and then turn bright red later. This is ideal to help the border move through the different colours from one end to the other. It is not hardy though so it is a one season wonder.

GREEN FINGERS TIP: Whenever you can, choose perennial plants that will grow again year after year, rather than bedding that dies at the end of the season. This means once you've planted your scheme you will not have to always replace plants every spring, at least in theory! Check the plants preferred type of soil, amount of sun and other requirements before you buy to give them the best chance. 

Achillea and Sanvitalia Green Fingered Blog
Achillea and Sanvitalia
I also like Sanvitalia Gold Crown which has filled in the front of the yellow end of the border. The tiny daisy like flowers are nice and bright, and compliment the achilleas alongside them, and the orange hemerocallis that are just finishing above. They were also from the clearance section, and have done a great job. 
To make sure the flowers continue through the end of summer, I've also added some small red dianthus in front of the red and purple lobelias and some taller Heleniums and Rudbeckias to boost the colour in the orange to yellow part of the bed. If these grow and flower as planned, you'll see them on my Facebook page, where I post my latest updates on what's doing well.

August on the Allotment 

Onions dying back ready to lift Green Fingered Blog
Onions about to disappear
Something else I left a bit late was harvesting my onions on the allotment. The trick is to leave them as long as possible but once the leaves start to die down they should be lifted and left to dry off. The wet weather recently provided little incentive to spend too long at the allotment, and not much opportunity to leave them to dry. In the end I had to get them up before the leaves disappeared completely. Any longer and it would have been hard to tell exactly where to dig!
Onions drying Green Fingered Blog
Onions safely inside to dry
So all the onions are up and drying off indoors. When they're dry the remaining earth falls off them easily and they can be kept for months in a cool dry place. We shouldn't need to buy any from the supermarket for most of the winter.

Also on the allotment, apart from trying to save everything from slugs (see above) I've been protecting the late sowing of carrots from carrot root fly, just as I did earlier in the year, and trying to stop the cabbage white butterflies infesting the bed of brassicas by netting them. I picked off plenty of caterpillars before the netting was in place so I just hope they are not too badly affected. Once the butterflies lay their eggs it can mean the end of the crop altogether. We'll soon find out if I was in time to save them.

After catching up with all of that, I will soon need to holiday proof the garden to make sure it survives for a week while we go away. I'm hoping that summer will return for those seven days at least, but if it does, the garden back home might suffer from the lack of moisture, so I'll prepare it a little just in case.

Feel free to share what's happening in from your garden by commenting below, or at The Propagator's blog. See you soon!


  1. Ha! This is a twist on "things in your garden". Things to do, eh! Well the things to do are in the garden so fine.

    Glad to see that you've shifted from "blue" slug pellets to the "turquoise" ones. I've always gone for nematodes for slugs. Snails seem to like climbing and I have a few sacrificial plastic tubs around the place - I just extract the critters from under the rims every morning and drop them into a little bucket of salted water.

    This year, though, dry spells followed all of my nematode applications. Dry kills them and I had to resort to the iron phosphate pellets. I'm not convinced they are totally safe to wildlife that may eat dead slugs but it seems that slugs engorged on the iron phosphate pellets disappear underground to die where they release the iron phosphate into the soil and so feed plants. I'm happy with that.

  2. Thanks John, good to hear from you. The iron phosphate theory seems reasonable to me too. I hope so. Not sure how snails are affected though. Presumably it also kills them but they will still be around to be eaten by birds and others, so I hope it is not harmful to them. A genuinely bird/mammal friendly solution is certainly needed.