Garden Jobs for August

It’s August and autumn is just around the corner. The garden should be full and blowsy with bees buzzing contentedly from bloom to bloom and butteflies flitting through the borders.

Prairie Planting

Prairie planting, shown here at Hauser and Wirth, looks great in August


By the time we reach August the planting in your garden should be so abundant that weeds are being swamped. Recent planting will still need weeding, though, as it won’t have spread enough to overwhelm the weeds. And some really vigorous thugs such as bindweed might persist. So keep an eye out for the weedy little blighters and hoik them out. Don’t worry if you can’t dig them out by the roots. It’s difficult to get to the root of a weed in the full August border. Regular pulling out will weaken them. The other essential task for this month is to deadhead flowers as they go over.  Deadheading encourages the plant to keep putting out new flowers as it wants to spread seed.


This time of year the borders can begin to look a little tired, depending on what you have planted. Cut back any perennials that are beginning to droop or go yellow (assuming you, or Mother Nature, have kept them well watered and they’re not dying of thirst!). Cutting back perennials that are past their prime will refresh the border and allow the late summer stars to shine. Tie in any rampant climbers that are beginning to flail around. Some plants might flop with the weight of their flowers, particularly in the rain. Support them with twiggy prunings that you have saved from earlier in the year (hopefully!).  Super well-organised gardeners put in plant supports before the perennials start growing strongly, which is all well and good if you have the time. Failing that, a few well placed twigs can keep everything in check.

Clematis 'Princess Diana'

Clematis texensis ‘Princess Diana’, pretty climber for late summer


If you have trained fruit trees, such as espaliers or cordons (not clever trees that can juggle or do tricks), August is the time to prune back side shoot growth to keep the trained shape. The aim of the pruning is to create short spurs that will bear fruit. Side shoots are ready to be pruned when they are about 8 or 9 inches long (20cm). They should feel woody at the bottom. Cut them back to 2 or 3 inches (8cm), leaving 3 or 4 buds at the base. You could also prune back the whippy growths of wisteria, but that could wait until September.

Espaliered Pear

Espaliered Pear Doyenne Commice at Barrington Court, Somerset