COLUMN: Give your garden some TLC in summer
August is usually the month when most of us go on holiday and leave our gardens to fend for themselves.
A little thought before you go and some tender loving care when you return, will be enough to make sure that you can go away without worrying about all of your hard gardening work going to waste and you can really relax on your holiday.
While you are away and your garden is left unattended, many of your plants may suffer due to lack of water. Make sure that before you go, you either arrange to have your containers and baskets watered, or set up a system that can supply water on a regular basis to your tubs and baskets. Move any baskets and containers out of full sun to a position where they are shaded at the height of the day. Stand terracotta pots on gravel trays topped up with water, so the pots can gradually absorb the reservoir of liquid or alternatively, make a few holes in the lid of a plastic water bottle, cut off the bottom of the bottle, turn upside down into the plant compost and then fill with water (which slowly drips into the soil).
You can apply the same watering principles to your vegetable patch as well. August (and September) is a month of gathering, harvesting, bottling and jam making for all ‘grow our own’ gardeners. However, if the weather is good in some areas you can still sow quick maturing salad crops. An easy way to create your very own ‘moveable’ salad patch is by planting lettuce, radish, rocket and chicory in troughs and containers. Cherry tomatoes from the vine, sweetcorn on the barbecue, a warm salad of tender green beans and a home grown side salad – with some flowers for the table picked from the garden – lovely!
A sweetly fragrant plant that works well as a cut flower but can also be used to attract wildlife such as bees and insects into the garden is Phlox. Flowering in mid-summer through to the end of the autumn, Phlox is a superb hardy herbaceous perennial originally from North America, with scented star-shaped pink, white and purple/blue flowers. It is the ideal border plant, often used in cottage gardens, but is also good as a cut flower and can grow quite tall so may need some support. Phlox likes a well-nourished soil that has been enriched with rotted compost or manure and prefers full sun although it can tolerate partial shade. In late autumn, cut the stems right down to the base and then mulch in early spring.
August is usually one of the hottest months of the year making watering essential, but jobs for this month also include pruning wisteria, deadhead flowering plants regularly, collecting seeds from favourite plants and looking after the lawns.