Despite being nestled almost 800m high in the Millesvaches Natural Regional Park, August here is a hot month. Temperatures regularly reach 30c with the only source of rain usually coming from the thunderstorms that often roll by in the evenings, though this year even those have been scarce!
For me, August is a month of maintaining, harvesting and planning. Here are the top eight top jobs I’ll be doing at le Jardin Perdu this month
1. Regular dead-heading of bedding plants and perennials. This is a job I love to do in the early evening when the air has started to cool, the sun is beginning to dip, but bees and butterflies are still busily dancing around you as you go about your task. Regular dead-heading will encourage flowers to continue blooming until the arrival of the first frosts, not only adding more colour to your garden but also providing more nectar for the pollinators. Flowers I am dead-heading include; Scabiosa, Dahlia, Petunia, Tagetes and Echinacea.
2. Watering. During the hottest month of August watering is one of the greatest gardening challenges. I’m not one for pandering to my plants, I only water when I think they truly need it. It is important however to water your vegetable patch and pots on a regular basis. Vegetables need regular watering to help ripen and plump their produce, in the potager pay particular attention to courgettes, sweetcorn, beans and peas. My gourds and butternut squash are developing well this year, despite receiving very little water. Water in the evening if you can so that it can be properly absorbed into the soil rather than being evaporated by the sun. I water my pots and hanging baskets both in the morning and evening, with little depth of soil, they dry out quickly. You can read more about how to help your garden survive a summer heatwave in my earlier blog here.
3. Harvest, harvest, harvest. For me August is the prime month to harvest vegetables. Peas, French beans and borlotti beans need to be constantly picked to encourage more to be produced. It’s in August that my favourite vegetable to grow and eat will be ready to harvest; sweetcorn. At the start of the month ensure your sweetcorn is kept well watered to plump up the cobs, adding a little tomato feed every now and then will also help. You can read my earlier blog about how to grow sweetcorn here.
4. Pinch out tomatoes. In the greenhouse my peppers and chillies are starting to develop, but somewhat slowly. No matter when I sow the seeds it’s always late August into September before I can begin to harvest them. Tomatoes and cucumbers, on the other hand, are doing wonderfully and are producing daily crops for us to enjoy. August is the time to pinch out the top of your tomatoes. Once 3-4 trusses have set, pinch off the top growing shoot to allow the plant to put its energy into ripening the tomatoes before the arrival of the cooler months.
5. Trim back lavender. I have a whole border full of lavender and this year it has been full of bees, butterflies, hummingbird hawk-moths and hoverflies. Although still being enjoyed, they are coming to the end of their flowering period, and once I have the heart, I’ll need to cut back the flowers to keep the bushes compact. The flowers should be trimmed off along with 2-3cm of this year’s growth but ensure that you leave some of the green growth behind.
6. Collect ripe seeds. For any flowers which have come to the end of their flowering period, collect ripe, dried seeds. My Delphinium finished flowering in July, and their seeds are now ready to collect; it’s an easy, free way to produce more flowers. I’ve just sent some of my Delphinium seeds to a friend here in France. It’s lovely to think that a little bit of Le Jardin Perdu will be growing in the Puy-de-Dôme next year!
7. Put water out for birds and other wildlife. It’s not just plants which suffer during the hot weather; birds, butterflies, bees and other wildlife also need water. We’re lucky to have a ‘petite source’ running through our garden providing a constant source of water for the wildlife. I’ve placed a few rocks here and there in the stream to provide easy landing spots for the birds and creating shallower spots for other wildlife to be able to drink from it. If you have a pond think about creating shallower areas so that wildlife can drink from it, or simply put out a bowl of water, with different sized pebbles at the bottom so that the water is never too deep and insects can safely land on them without getting their feet wet!
8. Take photographs of your borders. Whilst borders are in full bloom, now is the best time to stand back and decide what will need dividing or moving during the autumn or spring months. I certainly have a lot this year which will need sorting. Now in its sixth year, the borders are bulging; Hosta and Hemerocallis are huge and will need splitting; Bearded irises have multiplied to such an extent that they have now claimed a border as their own; in general everything has started to grow into each other and could do with a bit of space. It’s a good idea to take photographs now of those plants and borders that need sorting before the plants die down for autumn and you forget how cramped things have become!
I hope that you all enjoy the rest of your August and that the sun is shining where you are. I’d love to know what jobs you are doing in the garden now, so please do leave your comments in the box below.