August is the ideal time to feed your bulbs, spruce up trees and start planting spring-flowering annuals. Here’s a round-up of things to tick off your end-of-winter to-do list
Plant sweet peas
Sweet peas will fill your garden with delicious scent and their large seeds are perfect for kids to sow. Look out for winter- and spring-flowering varieties and plant in a sunny spot that’s well drained and out of the wind. Pinch out tips once seedlings are about 5-10cm high so they’ll send out side shoots.
Take care of the lawn
You won’t need to mow the lawn very often while it’s wet and cold but if you do, lift up the blades to about 6cm. Reducing mowing frequency helps keep lawns thick, healthy and weed-free.
Feed your bulbs
You’ve probably noticed the fresh green shoots of daffodils and other bulbs pushing up through the ground. As soon as these leaves appear feed plants with a standard bulb fertiliser and water regularly. Try not to cut off the leaves after flowering; wait for them to die down naturally. This allows your bulbs to get plenty of food for next season’s flowers.
Sow some spring seed
Other spring-flowering annuals that are easy to grow from seed include lobelia, cornflower, alyssum, forget-me-not, cineraria and marigold.
Spruce up late-flowering perennials
Winter is a good time to tidy up late-flowering perennials (eg canna, dahlia, bird of paradise). If you remove old leaves and flowers now it means plants can put all their energy into new growth when spring arrives. Wait for spring if you live in a colder area to ensure frost doesn’t damage young shoots. Tidy up shrubs and trees such as crab apple, gardenia, Hawaiian hibiscus, hydrangea and fuchsia, removing old/diseased branches.
Hydrangea maintenance time
When pruning hydrangeas, cut back flowering stems to a second pair of fat buds. Feed in spring with a balanced fertiliser and add aluminium sulphate if you want bluer flowers or lime to turn blooms pink.
Care for your camellias
Where would we be without camellias in the winter garden? Give yours a reward after flowering with a good feed. Use a fertiliser designed for these acid-loving plants such as Thrive Azalea, Camellia & Rhododendron.
Keep soil toasty
Cold soil slows down growth but a 10cm layer of mulch will help keep soil lovely and toasty. Try organic mulches such as bark, pea straw and shredded pine. Remember, though, that these need to be continually topped up as they break down.
Words by: Carol Bucknell. Photography by: James Knowler.