Gardening tips - extend the flower season
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August gardening is all about extending the summer flowering season and planning for next year says Suzie Hanson, head gardener at Brodsworth Hall
Be sure to water thoroughly and deeply each time you water. When possible, water in the morning or early afternoon so the soil has a chance to warm up before the cooler evening hours set in. Deep watering will induce a plant’s roots to grow deeper, where they are less likely to dry out, and help to securely anchor the plant into the ground. Light, surface watering actually wastes water, because the water never actually reaches the root zone of the plant, and the moisture rapidly evaporates from the top inch of soil. The best way to tell if your plants are receiving enough water is to take a trowel or shovel and dig down a few inches. The soil should be moist at least three or four inches deep to ensure the water is reaching the root zone. If you have drought resistant plants in your garden you won’t have to water as often, but the principle of deep watering still applies.
This is a lovely time to see hanging baskets in full bloom displayed brightly in front of houses, shops and pubs. It feels like a very English tradition. But they take some work. Check hanging baskets and container-grown plants every day during dry weather and about every second day on moderate summer days. Don’t just check the surface but dig your finger an inch or two into the soil to be sure there is adequate moisture throughout the root area. Water hanging baskets thoroughly each time, but be careful not to over do it. Unwatered hanging baskets will quickly dry out, wilt and hang sadly instead of brightly and vibrantly.
Contrary to popular belief, a brown lawn isn’t necessarily a dead lawn. Grasses go dormant in times of drought, but will quickly return to life when it rains. If a lush green lawn is important to you, and you don’t mind mowing, water it regularly and deeply. If a water shortage is expected, or you hate tending to grass, just let your lawn go dormant. Water it as seldom as once a month and raise the cutting height of the mower. Taller grass cools the roots and helps to keep the moisture in the soil longer.
Take a few minutes to pick off dead flowers on your annuals, as well as the spent flowers on perennial plants. A little time spent doing this will make a big difference. The plants will not go into the seed-producing stage and should continue to flower longer into the season.
Perennial and biennial plants can be started from seed sown directly into the garden this month. Container grown perennials, shrubs and trees can be planted too. Always take time to prepare the soil by mixing in generous quantities of peat-free compost and manure.
Place your order for autumn flowering crocus this month, to give you an extra week or two of flowers after the main garden plants have finished for the year.
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Spring flowering perennials can be divided and transplanted this month or next. Do this in the coolest part of the day and water thoroughly after transplanting.
On the pruning front it is time to tackle the wisteria, an essentially English garden attraction. This can cause gardeners anguish but it is actually relatively simple; just remember that wisteria requires pruning twice a year, summer and winter. Prune each minor lateral shoot back to within five or six leaves of a main lateral. Once a main lateral has filled the required space you can start to prune this back to within five or six leaves of the new growth on an annual basis. If wisteria has become overgrown remove a main branch each year over several years to allow suitable replacements to take over.
We don’t have wisteria here at Brodsworth but we do have plenty of climbing and rambling roses. All of our 200 or so roses are old, pre-Victorian varieties many of which do not repeat flower. If you have any non-repeating climbing or rambling roses in your garden, start to prune them this month once they have finished flowering. Given we’re still very busy here we tend to leave the major structural pruning until winter and often whip over our pergola with a pair of shears to speed up the process somewhat.
Begin to prune hybrid roses this month to promote autumn flowering. Remove about a third of the vigorous growth. Any stems that cross each other should be removed. Weak, spindly growth and any damaged by black spot fungus should go too.
Brodsworth Hall is a beautiful Victorian house surrounded by a collection of grand gardens in miniature, lovingly restored to their original splendour. For more information contact Brodsworth Hall & Gardens, Brodsworth, Doncaster South Yorkshire DN5 7XJ
Jobs for August
Vent glasshouses on hot days
Trim or tie in new shoots on climbers
Continue hoeing and weeding as required
Keep an eye out for powdery mildew
Top tip for this month
Prepare for the autumn by building a bay for leaf mould composting in a spare corner of the garden. The resulting compost will be excellent for container plants next summer.