Peter’s Gardening tips for August 2016

The weather has been very unpredictable again this summer! Such a mixture of sunshine and showers and luckily for the gardens no drought in sight, unlike the summer of 1976!

Always plenty to do this time of year, with not really enough hours in the day to get everything in tip top condition!

Jobs to do:-

Pick flowers from the garden and bring some indoors to enjoy; something we should not forget to do!

Spring bulbs arrive in the garden centres, Autumn flowering bulbs like Colchcium (Autumn Crocus), Crocus sativa (Saffron Crocus, Lilies, Nerines, Crocus, Winter Aconite, Narcissus), so now is the time to start thinking ahead and plan where you want some Spring colour.

Think of a sunny area where you can allow the grass to grow long and plant with spring bulbs and wildflowers for this autumn. Long grass looks fabulous, is amazing for encouraging wildlife, butterflies and moths – many breed in long grass. Frogs, toads, newts love it especially the young ones they can hide and feed on creepy crawlies. Voles in long grass are food for kestrels and owls. In essence long grass, wildflowers, Spring and Summer flowering bulbs and annuals will give you immense pleasure encourage wildlife, biodiversity, helping restore one of the most important ecosystems declining in Britain.


Onions, shallots and garlic can be harvested if the foliage falls over and start to die off. Lift to dry off somewhere warm and sunny – greenhouse floor on tarmac or gravel but don’t allow to get wet. Dry off thoroughly until foliage is crispy dry them hang up in bunches in the shed or garage, cool and dry to store.

Veg at Wisley, Courgette, French beans, Leeks and Potatoes ready for digging up.

Veg at Wisley, Courgette, French beans, Leeks and Potatoes ready for digging up.


Lift when you have flowers or they have flowered. Any signs of die back from disease must be removed, cutting the foliage (Haulms) to the ground. The potatoes can stay in the ground until required or dug up, dried and bagged in paper sacks. Discard any green potatoes. As with all storing of fruit and veg only store perfect specimens – damaged, split or diseased will cross infect healthy ones. Try to check your stores regularly.

Salad crops:-

Continue to sow lettuce, parsley, spinach, dill, coriander, basil, mustards, chicory and mizuma. Some of these can be brought in on a bright windowsill, greenhouse or conservatory for supplies during the autumn/winter.

Courgettes, keep cutting and feeding any of the squashes. Raise larger fruit off the ground like pumpkins and squashes to stop rotting – a tile works well placed underneath the fruit.

Cut back strawberries if they have finished fruiting, if you don’t want the runners, remove straw and weeds.

Raspberries – summer fruiting cut down fruited canes, mulch and feed.


Pruning – time to attack the wisteria. Cut back long tendrils to 3-4 leaves, resulting in short spurs. These will turn into flower buds for next year!

Prune Pyracantha to expose the berries – leave a bit of this year’s growth for flower next Spring. (Others shrubs include any Summer flowering ones- Philadelphus, Deutzia)….


English walled garden full of old roses and foxgloves

English walled garden full of old roses and foxgloves

Climbing Roses and ramblers. Cut back old flowered stems – even really old long ones. Keep all the new stems especially the ones coming from near ground level. Tie these into the support. These are next years flowering stems! Bush roses continue to dead head unless you want the rose hips. Feed and mulch for flowers this autumn.


Perfect month for taking Lavender and Rosemary cuttings. Snip off non-flowering shoots 10-15cms long. Strip off lower leaves and cut with a sharp knife just below a leaf joint. Fill a pot with gritty compost. Dip the cuttings into Hormone Rooting powder and push the cuttings in around the edge of the pot. Water and place in a shaded area. You will be able to pot them on this autumn and plant out next spring. Other plants for the same treatment are Geraniums (Pelargoniums), Fuchsias, Salvias and many more.

A bit of time spent dead-heading every day or so keeps the garden smart, encourages more flowers. Picking Sweet peas, climbing or runner beans, dahlia flowers, courgettes will also keep up a constant supply. Water and feed in dry/windy weather.


Time to give these a haircut, just check for nesting birds beforehand. Sharpen blades, grease and oil before use, nothing worse than using dirty or blunt tools!!


With the recent rains, germination of weeds will be incredible, so with drier weather forecast get the hoe out, or weed killer. Pull up any large weeds before they flower and set seed!

What ever the weather enjoy your gardening, take time out, use your senses, listen to the bird song, stop and observe life around you, relax with a glass of your favourite tipple, draw breath and inhale the scents of yours or somebody else’s garden!

Please leave your gardening questions for me to answer and I will do my best to come back to you.

Happy Gardening!


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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. I am an extremely lucky guy who loves what I do and the trade called Horticulture!

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7th Sep 2016
Thanks for voting!
Hi Peter, I've left a part of my lawn to grow long and, earlier this year, I planted some wild flower seeds, but the grass has grown so thick and long I cant see how they will grow through it and its now looking quite a mess! I'm tempted to mow it down again, but feel as though I'm letting nature down a little by doing so. Any ideas please. Thank you.
14th Aug 2016
Thanks for voting!
Hi Peter, your tips are always most helpful! I have a hydrangea, grown from a cutting, taken while on holiday in Brittany, many years ago. I dont want to lose it, but this year it has grown huge, full of huge pink heads, and is taking over the garden. What do I do?

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