Down to earth advice for Derbyshire’s Gardeners - August

Raise the blades on the mower before cutting fine lawns. This will help reduce drought stress. Mow lightly and frequently so that short grass clippings can remain on the lawn during hot summers to act as a moisture-retentive mulch.

Excess thatch can be scarified out during autumn maintenance next month. Lawns on thin soils may benefit from a high phosphate feed.

In the perennial border start to collect seed from favourite plants. Prune Wisteria and shrubs such as Pyracantha after flowering. Hebe and lavenders can be given a light prune after flowering. Continue to deadhead shrub to extend flowering into early autumn.

Thoroughly soak drought-stressed plants and shrubs, especially newly planted ones. Use grey, recycled or stored rain water wherever possible. Semi-ripe cuttings can still be taken to propagate many common garden shrubs (e.g. box, Ceanothus, lavender). Rhododendrons, azaleas and Clematis can be propagated by layering.

In flower borders and patio areas don’t neglect hanging baskets - deadheading, watering and feeding will help them last through until autumn. Deadhead plants such as Dahlia and Penstemon and bedding to prolong the display colour well into early autumn. Don't cut off the flowerheads of ornamental grasses as these will provide winter interest.

Take cuttings of tender perennials such as Pelargonium and Osteospermum, as soon as possible. A greenhouse, cool conservatory or a light windowsill are ideal to bring them on until they are established.

Most perennial weeds are best dealt with when in active growth. Applying a weed killer containing Glyphosate during summer will ensure that the roots, as well as the top growth, are killed. Dead head roses and remove weeds, not forgetting to water during dry spells. Black spot on roses is very common at this time of year, and spraying will no longer be effective. Clear fallen leaves and burn them to prevent spread. Powdery mildew can be a problem in dry summers.

Climbing roses can be pruned once they have finished flowering; side-shoots from the main framework of branches are cut back to a couple of buds. Any dead, diseased or spindly growth is cut out and the new young shoots are tied in to the supports, from the base. If there is an old, thick and woody, unproductive stem, it can be removed from the base to stimulate more vigorous growth.

In the vegetable and fruit garden don’t delay summer pruning restricted fruits. Harvest sweet-corn and other vegetables as they become ready. Continue cutting out old fruited canes on raspberries.

Lift and pot up rooted strawberry runners. Prepare new strawberry beds for next year if not yet done. Tie in new growth on blackberries and hybrid berries. Complete summer pruning of restricted fruit trees such as cordon and espalier apples and pears.

Continue to sow spring cabbage, turnips, Oriental vegetables and over wintering onions.

Lift onions, shallots and garlic when ready. Plants should be harvested when the necks start to turn brown and papery, and bend over naturally. Regularly pick fast-maturing vegetables such as French beans, runner beans, courgettes, cucumbers and tomatoes, to prevent stringiness or toughness, and to encourage further cropping.

Keep ponds and water features topped up. Pile the removed pond weed by the side of the pond for 24 hours to allow pond life to crawl back into the water and then put on the compost heap. Aerate the water in hot sticky weather by leaving fountains on overnight. Shallow water features or those with water washing over cobbles can become green very quickly in summer weather. Algaecides may need applying more frequently than in normal ponds.

Clearing out fallen leaves and debris regularly will help to keep down algae growth, as there will be fewer nutrients available from rotting organic matter.

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