August is the time to take a well-earned break from the last few months of planting, cutting, digging, watering and to enjoy the fruits of your hard work, literally. Eat your crops as they come out before you miss them, says gardening expert Andy Colquhoun. But there are still a few jobs to do…...
August is normally a dry month (although this year, it’s anyone’s bet), so keep on watering, particularly those plants in pots and containers. If you have plants in baskets or well-draining pots, try sticking a plastic bottle in there. Cut it in half and put it upside down in the pot; when you fill it up, it’ll drain more slowly into the soil, rather than running away as soon as you turn your back.
A second crop
If you’ve enjoyed most of your green veg and juicy fruits, there’s still time to grow more. You can get a second crop of broad beans in a good summer. When the plant’s finished, cut the stem close to the ground and it may regrow and produce a smaller but perfectly acceptable second crop, producing fresh broad beans in late summer/early autumn.
There is still enough summer left to sow a last row of lettuces, rocket and crops such as Pak Choi which prefer cooler conditions and will be less prone to bolting (running to seed prematurely because growing conditions are too hot and dry). Any late crops sown during August will need cloche protection later when it becomes cooler.
Another option for a bare patch of soil is to sow ‘green manures’. Providing cover over the winter, these can help keep hold of nutrients, soil structure and inhibit weed growth - and it’s great for insects too. There are plenty of crops to choose from. A selection that will work well in Mid Devon soils include: alsike clover, Essex red clover, phacelia, winter field bean, winter tares.
The rest of the garden
Pruning and deadheading are important this month (aren’t they every month, I hear you shout…). Tend to your wisteria, if you’re lucky enough to have one, to make sure it doesn’t grow too large and stop flowering. Prune the soft, ‘whippy’ growth to about 15cm and leave anything that is part of the main body of the tree. Remove any shoots that appear at the base of the plant.