August can be a flat month in the garden. Much of what is best has been and gone. The garden seems to sprawl, exhausted by high summer. There is no point fighting this moment of capitulation, but as gardeners, we can at least seek to leaven it.
August is, for instance, a good month for tomatoes, spinach, parsley and others. If you have green tomatoes on the vine, pinch away some foliage to let more sunlight in and speed up the process of ripening. If they are green at the end of the month, make a chutney to bring out with cheese at Christmas.
There is still time to start some parsley, too. If it gets properly underway now, it should be pickable throughout winter. Spinach and other fast-developing salad leaves can also be worth sowing.
This is also the perfect time to think about sowing hardy annuals. Two of my favourites are Californian poppies and nigella. An old gardeners’ trick when directly sowing seeds is to sow them in either a criss-cross or zig-zag pattern: when it comes to weeding, you will know what to yank out and what to leave. You may worry the display will look like a noughts and crosses board, but it never does.
Harvest is upon us and early apples will be ready towards the end of the month. To test whether an apple is ready to pluck, gently hold one in the palm of your hand and twist. If it is removed easily it can be eaten. If you want evergreen hedges and topiary to remain looking sharp over winter, now is a good time to tidy them. Offcuts from the box can be used to take cuttings in order to make new plants for next year.
After flowering, lavender can also be cut back, which is necessary if you want to prevent it becoming leggy. August is a good month to think about any seed you wish to save as it should be ripening. I generally store seed in paper envelopes in a cool, dark drawer, but do remember to label batches clearly, to prevent confusion further down the line.
One last thing: remember to top up your bird baths, especially during warmer spells. Our little avian friends will appreciate it. And if you don’t have any, consider introducing them. A healthy population of birds can do wonders for your garden.
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