Windy August is not a hot favourite amongst gardeners. In some regions it will be miserably cold, windy and dry, and elsewhere miserably cold, wet and still dark when you wake up in the mornings. But take heart! The promise of spring, with the sweet scent of jasmine, is already in the air… Your main job is to: Get the soil into prime planting condition by adding copious amounts of compost to new and planted beds. Do not dig it in, you will just encourage dormant weeds to germinate. Spread it out in a thick layer on top of the soil and around the root area (not against the stems of plants) and rake it level.
Feed all colourful potted plants and hanging baskets. Repot orchids that have finished flowering, using a commercial orchid mix.
Give it a short cut, feed with a specialised lawn fertiliser, water well and topdress with quality organic lawn dressing.
Winter seedlings that have finished flowering can now be replaced with summer flowers like celosia, snapdragons and marigolds.
Think of investing in rainwater harvesting by installing water tanks. You will be surprised by how much water and money you can save. If you are considering a new pebble/paving area, remember to lay weed guard down first to combat weed growth – also a time- and money-saving activity.
After pruning the hydrangeas, fertilise with an acid fertiliser to make the flowers blue.
Look out for proteas, pincushions and ericas to plant now. Summer-flowering bulbs like amaryllis, begonia, pineapple lily and dahlia bulbs should be available too. Double up on flower power for spring with geraniums, petunias, dianthus, diascias, nemesias andsuteras. Also sow seeds of marigolds and zinnias. Add rewetting granules to the soil, use slow-release fertilisers and keep on deadheading annuals and perennials to ensure a long flowering period.
Consider potting over old and tired indoor pot plants and buy some fresh ones for inside. Keep their leaves clean and start feeding regularly with liquid plant food.
The brightly coloured flower heads of pincushions (Leucospermum) differ in shape and size, and they are available in a variety of warm colours. Pin cushions makes distinctive and long-lasting cut flowers. They perform best in a sunny and airy position in the garden, with well-drained soil.
Water regularly until the plant is fully established. Remember to spread a layer of compost around the plant as mulch. Recommended hybrids are: ‘High Gold’ (bright yellow), ‘Rigoletto’ (red), ‘Succession’ (dark orange), ‘Raziya’ (deep red). Chamelaucium, commonly known as the Geraldton wax flower, is another shrub to go for. Spectacular masses of flowers cover the entire bush and last for weeks. The leaves are highly aromatic when crushed and the plants are tough and drought tolerant when well established. Check out all the wonderful new hybrids available at your local nursery!
Choose vegetables and herbs that you use regularly in your kitchen and are easy to grow. You can start off by sowing beetroot, baby marrows, carrots, chamomile, parsley, nasturtiums and chives.
Plant masses of clivias to add spring to your shade.
Do not be tempted to prune frost-damaged plants just yet, even if they look sad. Pruning now will encourage soft new growth that will be killed off by late frost.
After scarifying the lawns by cutting low, spiking, feeding and topdressing around the end of August, also repair ragged lawn edges as they are easier to trim if neat. Do this by laying new sods or pieces from a healthy patch of the lawn on a bed of fine compost, and make level with the existing lawn.
For something light and fresh, start planting different salad varieties. You can also be very fashionable by planting a variety of salad types in pots or wooden boxes. Sow some nasturtium seeds between the leafy stuff – the flowers and leaves are edible and great for salads. The plants are known as great companions that will keep pests like aphids away.
Most gardeners love daisies, and when it comes to flower power there is simply nothing lackadaisical about them. Some of the most desirable members of the Asteraceae family are already in flower in August, so fill up your pots with marguerites (Argyranthemum). Paint a carpet of vibrant colour in the rockery with African daisies (Arctotus), of which we see many new hybrids every year. For retaining walls and banks you can invest in Cape daisies (Osteospermum), which are now available in modern ranges with trendy colours. They flower continuously from spring to autumn and are great for pots and hanging baskets too.
Snails and slugs will give it their best shot to feast on all your soft new spring plantings. Do battle with them by planting barrier plants like mint, garlic, chives, geraniums, foxgloves and fennel, which these pests hate, around susceptible plants.
In temperate areas one can start sowing summer flowers to fill gaps in borders in prepared seed trays. It is a cheap way to garden if you keep this up throughout summer. Sow seeds of marigolds, ageratum, cosmos, lobularia, cleomes, godetias, lavateras, flox, sunflowers and nicotiana now. Keep the soil ever just moist until germination and the seed boxes protected from cold spells.
Plant out rhubarb, shallots, garlic and globe artichokes. In frost-free areas, make first sowings of summer crops like runner beans, dwarf beans, maize, sweet corn, pumpkins and squashes. Topdress perennial crops like asparagus and globe artichokes. Plant out seedlings of early tomatoes, peppers and eggplants in frost-free areas. Plant seed potatoes in rows. Also start sowing early crops of sweet basil, coriander and rocket.
Plant out young strawberry plants and sow seed of Cape gooseberries.
If you have a small rose garden which has just been pruned and need a good companion plant, use parsley seedlings as a border – they enjoy the same growing conditions.
They are great in the garden and lovely for pots and hanging baskets in many glorious colours. Supply at least five hours of sun each day and feed them often as they are hungry plants.
Start thinking of collecting the following for your summer garden: Californian poppy, campanula, dianthus (pinks), irises, kangaroo paw, lavender, sage, rosemary, westringia and thyme. Keep sown seed protected from cold.
You can divide overgrown flaxes and ornamental grasses at the end of August to get more plants.
Snails and slugs will give it their best shot to feast on soft new spring growth and plantings. Use organic or chemical snail pellets, but to stop them from disappearing into the soil or falling into the wrong hands, cut a plastic bottle in half. Bury it in the soil with the neck-end just peeking out. Feed pellets into the opening. This will ensure that only the snails get them.
Prune woody shrubs, especially foliage plants which are not influenced by a specific flowering season. They will re-grow fast as the temperatures start rising. It is sometimes necessary to prune quite drastically (knee-high), in order to encourage new growth at ground level once again, cutting out ugly old bare branches below, rather than allowing them to sprout new growth at eye level. Remember to prune spring-flowering shrubs only when they have finished flowering. Plants that can be pruned now include poinsettia, plumbago, tecoma, hypericum, heliotrope, solanum, canary creeper, golden shower and buddleja, which have finished flowering. Prune wisterias as soon as they have stopped flowering, by cutting back the side branches to about three buds.
Caution: In very cold climes, leave pruning of frost-damaged plants until the possibility of more cold snaps are over as you do not want soft new growth which might sprout in sudden warmer weather to damaged.