The August checklist


Water works

If water is scarce, save it for things that need it most – namely container-grown plants that are prone to drying out, vegetables and new additions that have yet to get their feet down. Trays under containers will catch any spare drips. Try not to be erratic. Regular observation will tell you where water is needed and help you to avoid blossom-end rot on the tomatoes, aborting flowers on the runner beans and splits in the root vegetables. Water anything planted in the ground deeply and less frequently to encourage the roots down where the moisture is.


Out to grass

Don’t worry about grass going brown. It will come back with autumn rains. If you haven’t already, cut long grass where bulbs are planted. Rake up the cuttings and compost, then use to keep fertility down where you want wildflowers to grow.


Wisteria Lane

August-prune the wisteria, removing all of this summer’s growth back to six leaves. This will not only keep it out of the gutters but also help ripen the wood. There will be some regrowth, but you can prune in February to shorten this year’s wood growth to two buds. The flowering spurs are also promoted by regular pruning.


Berries from heaven

As soon as you have harvested the summer-fruiting berries, reduce all last year’s wood to the base, where new shoots will have sprung to replace them. You should also begin to harvest autumn-fruiting raspberries. If you have netted any fruit to protect them from birds, remove after harvesting to stop birds getting tangled.


Off with their heads

Deadheading is one of those jobs to do regularly while watering. It will reward you with more colour and a garden that feels less tired.


Lavender thrill

Let the bees enjoy the nectar, and leave pruning lavender to the last week of the summer holidays. When removing flower spikes never cut into old wood – clip just down into foliage.


Harvest festival

For the best flavour, run straight to a boiling pot of water after you’ve picked sweetcorn. Lift onions and dry them in the sun, and keep on top of courgettes to prevent them turning to marrows. Watch out for blight on tomatoes and pick them as soon as you see it. A glut of unripened fruit can be made into chutney.


Fresh greens

If your vegetable patch lies fallow after harvest, or is not in use for more than six weeks, sow a green manure crop to protect and return goodness to the soil. Red clover will be ready to be dug in by autumn. Turn in when the plants are just about to flower. Nitrogen-fixing nodules in the roots help turn the foliage back into organic matter (


Read this article on the Observer website

Photo courtesy of Jason Ingram for the Observer

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