The garden in August
Some regard August as a dull time in the garden, but with careful forward-planning, you can ensure plenty of colour and foliage interest this month. Seed sowing may be coming to a halt, but we’ve still found a range of tasks for you to complete. One is propagation of a different kind: our project of the month, softwood cuttings.
Plant of the month: Agapanthus praecox orientalis ‘Queen Mum’
Who says you must wait until Bonfire Night for explosions? Each flowerhead is a firework, with blue trumpets opening out into clean white flares. They have a regal appearance, so their name is apt. Plant either one per pot or en masse in a sunny gravel garden.
The flower garden
- The tidying up period begins now – some herbaceous perennials will truly have given up the ghost, so simply chop these down to the ground
- Prune any roses that don’t repeat flower or develop rosehips with your bypass secateurs
- Similarly, you should prune Wisteria by cutting the thin green shoots back to five or six leaves. Follow this in January or February by pruning them back to just two or three buds
- Some plants continue to offer beauty, such as dahlias, penstemon and cosmos. Deadhead these regularly to prolong their display – a reliable pair of garden snips will help with this
The edible garden
- Cover bare beds by sowing green manures which preserve nutrients and improve the soil when dug in later
- Tidy up your strawberry beds by removing straw and old foliage, digging up and disposing of the oldest plants using your trowel
- Grab the secateurs and gloves and cut fruited summer raspberry canes down to ground level
Project of the month: Take softwood cuttings
Early August is your last chance to take softwood cuttings to ensure rooting before winter. Softwood is found between the youngest growth (very pliable, rots easily) and woodier stem (unbending, doesn’t root readily). Plants you’ll particularly want to take cuttings from are more tender specimens which could die off over a harsh winter.
It’s not difficult to take softwood cuttings. The key is in preparation. Make sure you have your pots of cutting compost organised beforehand, plastic sandwich bags to hand, a sharp sterile knife, and water the plants you’ll be cutting thoroughly the night before the procedure. This is life-or-death surgery for your cuttings!
- Take cuttings as early in the morning as possible, so they’re fully turgid. Cut just above buds, taking a length of 10cm, without flowers
- Place them straight into a bag sprinkled with water for humidity and seal
- Once next to your pots of compost, remove the cuttings and trim off the bottom, just below a leaf node
- Remove the lower leaves and halve large upper leaves
- Plunge into the pot
- Label the cuttings and water
- Place in a propagator or cover with clear bags to preserve moisture until the cuttings have rooted (usually between six and 10 weeks).