Peter’s Gardening Tips for August

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What a change in the weather, hot and sunny then gales and rain.  Nature saw it coming or felt it, as the Swifts left early, a lot of Swallows and House Martins too, all in the first week of August!

This wind is very unwelcome at this time of year it can do a lot of damage, fruit gets knocked off, branches break and rub, herbaceous plants get pummelled, the saving grace was the rain, not for farmers  gathering in the harvest.  Hailstones also bruise apples and damage grapes.

Take stock of your garden this month and make a note of things you want to change?

–  plants in the wrong place?

–  which vegetable or flower varieties you want to grow again and those you don’t

–  look for rubbing/broken branches

–  check tree ties

–  tie up fallen climbers or cut back

–  herbaceous plants not performing, may need splitting?

–  are you pleased with your colour combinations?

–  are there gaps in your borders?

Take photos and put a cane in the ground with a label tied to it with indelible ink and a note to either  plant, remove, split, change the plants!

Here is a quote from an old gardening book from 1914

‘Possibly you are satisfied and fail to see any serious defects.  If so, you are to be envied, but if, on the contrary, there is a lurking doubt in your mind, resolve it without delay by appealing for the advice of the best lady gardener you know.  It has always been my experience that when the artistic arrangement of colours is in question the feminine instinct and taste are more to be relied on than those of a mere male.  Even if you are a misogynist forget your dislike of the opposite sex for the time being and call in the aid of one of its representatives!’

Extract from the Week-end Gardener 1914 by F. Hadfield Farthing

This makes my writing look very tame!

The Old Gardeners definitely know and knew a thing or two. If you know any pick their brains, you never stop learning in horticulture.


‘August ripens, September gathers in,

August bears the burden, September the fruit’

‘If the twenty-fourth of August be fair and clear,

Then hope for a prosperous Autumn that year’

Let’s hope so….

Jobs for the Month

Vegetables :-  Continue to pick and harvest courgettes, runner/climbing beans and French beans, potatoes, salads etc.  Continue to sow salad crops, radishes, lettuces, Pak Choi, turnips (a very under used vegetable).  Remove lower leaves off tomatoes to aid ripening.  Cut out top of main stem at     5-6’ tall so the fruit swell.  Keep feeding tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes, pumpkins and squashes on a weekly or even more often for gigantic veg!!

Prop –up runner/climbing beans if wind has caused havoc.  Draw up soil against leeks to create a whiter stem.  Lift shallots and dry off in a sunny position, like the floor of the greenhouse.

Fruit :-  Collect up fallen fruit,  if good enough make into a chutney, jams and pickles.  Peaches and nectarines, plums and cherries need picking, peaches do go over very quickly and do protect them from the birds.

Raspberry Jam

Raspberry Jam

The autumn feast is upon us.  Hazel nuts are ripening, pick them before the squirrels get to them first, and there are fabulous blackberries in the hedgerows, along with crab apple trees waiting to make flavoursome jelly.

Hedges :-  Gardeners have a big task this august into autumn, growth is phenomenal.   Cut back now this years growth to regain a hedge shape, do not cut back too hard though.  The  pruning’s shredded up and mixed with grass will make good compost, some can be burnt or taken for recycling.

Grass :- Try and keep some grass long for baby toads, frogs and newts, a lot of butterflies and moths also lay their eggs on different types of grasses.

Strimming :-  Can kill masses of young animals and adult toads and frogs, so please don’t cut to close to the ground, they can escape and hide so 3-4” of grass is best. We don’t want to kill our gardening friends!  Long grass is also great for voles and mice which are food for owls and kestrels.

Cuttings :-  The month for taking cuttings of pelargoniums, geraniums, fuchsias and tender plants you want to bulk up for next year.

Dahlias :-  Stake and tie in tall varieties.  Disbud any distorted flower buds and keep an eye out for earwigs, slugs and snails, they love them.  A bamboo cane with an upturned flower pot on top crammed with straw to trap the earwigs will help, check the straw each morning and deal with them as you see fit!

Slugs and Snails :-  If you juice your oranges or grapefruits, keep some of the half skins and dot around skin uppermost, pith to the soil like multi-coloured mole hills.  Slugs and snails love them, and will hide underneath for you to discard them  the following morning.  Replace with fresh skins when rotten?



Lavenders :-  Once the main flush of flower is over cut back, some varieties will re-flower if dead headed.  Others need a haircut, cut back into a dome shape NOT back into the old stems though, -keep to the where you have leaves above the old stems.

Bulbs :- Garden centres and nurseries have the new seasons Spring bulbs, so think Daffodils, Crocus, Narcissus, Bluebells, Camassia, Muscari, Tulips, Hyacinths, Alliums….and

Autumn flowering bulbs in stock now. Saffron crocus, Autumn crocus, Nerine.  Go soon to get the pick of the best, if you wish to get  bulbs to force for Christmas this is the month to buy and plant Hyacinths.

Climbing Plants :-  Wisterias- Rampant growth can be trained and cut back.  Cut back all long leggy tendrils of growth back to short spurs of 5-6 leaf buds from the new growth produced this year.  If a young plant tie in the new stems to create your framework, you dictate the direction and length of where you want it to go and grow!!  This is often quite tricky as it can easily take over your home like a trifid, the end result should be lots of short spurs about 4-6” long, which will end up being next years flower buds, there will still be a lot of regrowth but this can be cut back and removed when you prune in Winter, Jan-March time.

Virginia Creeper – needs taming too.  Keep it away from windows, gutters, down pipes, you don’t have to do anything special just cut it back to where you want!

David Austin Constance Spry Climbing Rose

David Austin Constance Spry Climbing Rose

Climbing/Rambler Roses – Cut out old flowered stems only, what you are looking for are the long stems coming from the base of the plant, these are next years flowers so DO NOT cut these off, tie them in carefully without snapping them off.   Replacement pruning is to cut out the old and tie in the new.  If you can invest in good quality gauntlet gloves and have sharp, clean secateurs, saw and loppers to hand.

Keep feeding, watering and harvesting as you can and do spend some time looking at other gardens for ideas for next year.

Good luck with the tidy and clear up in the garden,  please feel free to leave any queries or questions.

Happy Gardening from Hop-along-Pete, learning to walk again after six months from my accident ….

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Peter Mills

I love everything to do with natural history, wildlife, biodiversity and of course horticulture - basically the big outdoors. I grew up with very good teachers namely my parents and my French grandfather who was a superb grower of vegetables. At Hadlow College I studied a three year OND in Horticulture. I had a market stall selling plants. Went onto wholesaling house plants to florists and garden centres across southern England. In 1986 I joined Clandon Park Garden Centre as manager. Whilst there I started my career as a gardening radio presenter with the BBC Southern Counties Radio. This continued for 15 years, building up valuable contacts with the RHS Wisley, live broadcasts from Chelsea & Hampton Court Flower shows, South of England & Surrey County shows etc. Since 1998 I have been self-employed, working as a Head Gardener and in private gardens . Through the RHS Advisory Department at Wisley I advise on horticultural problems in members gardens, including pest & disease problems, lawn-care advice, pruning of wisterias, fruit trees, roses, wildlife gardening, growing fruit & vegetables, creating wildflower meadows, identifying plants and control of pernicious weeds. Autumn 2016 finds me at the Autumn Flower Show 6-8 of September at RHS Wisley and Taste of Autumn Sunday 23rd of October. Sunday 11th of September I am cycling from London to Brighton for Perennial ( Gardeners Benevolent Fund) who helped me when I broke my leg badly in 2014. Had the plate removed in February this year. My Just Giving page is Perennial is a Fabulous Charity who help anyone working in horticulture. I didn't think I would need their help at the age of 52! They were brilliant and helped us as a family. It's my turn to repay their help and others too! John Ambrose and I have raised over £ 2000.00 thank you all. I am an extremely lucky guy who loves what I do and the trade called Horticulture!

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Peter Mills
29th Aug 2014
Thanks for voting!
Hi Doug,
Your jungle will take some taming! Enjoy the black berries at the moment. Then attack with a hedge cutter. Cut back to the ground. Burn brambles or remove for recycling. The stumps of brambles need digging out to stop regrowth. A good sharp spade and cut below the knuckle 4-6 inches below the soil surface and pull out. Burn or dispose of. Ferns you might want to keep unless it's bracken. Regular cutting will mean you regain the area. If you don't want the trouble of all this work, keep it cut back. It will make a good wildlife area for nesting birds,bugs,butterflies etc.
Regards Peter.
Doug Traylor
29th Aug 2014
Thanks for voting!
At the end of my garden is a path which as far as iknow
this path belongs to no one, the path has brambles and furns all upto 10 feet tall .how would I get rid of these.
THey intrude into my garden wellover 6 feet , and apart from moving house ihave no ideas. Have you
Peter Mills
18th Aug 2014
Thanks for voting!
Thank you for your comment. I try to make gardening more understandable and dispel some myths! I also know there are some incredibly knowledgeable gardeners out there,so it's a balancing act to aid novices and or help the learned one's.
Am I hitting the right balance?
Have you got any questions to tax the grey cells you gardeners out there?
Regards Peter

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