Anna Taylor, owner of Anna’s Flower Farm in Audley End, shares what’s going on in the garden this month
Some of my favourite memories of gardening are those very early August mornings or late evenings during the summer holidays. The cool of the dawn or sun setting draws long shadows across the beds. Jobs don’t feel so urgent or exhausting without the beating sun on the back of my neck and I adore the still part of the day quietly working by myself.
After the rapid growth of July, slowed by half in August and half again in September, the garden gently retreats and so weeding, tidying up plants, staking and deadheading will make all the difference to your borders as the summer unrolls.
Cut down late spring and early summer plants to allow others space to bloom. Lady’s mantle, delphiniums, Californian poppies and astrantia all appreciate being reduced to the ground, a good water (and a little feed) plus compost and you may be rewarded with flowers again in September.
Cosmos, dahlias and chrysanthemums need to be staked as the plants tower over the bed. An August storm will batter plants and I have been devastated more than once when they have been bashed and broken to a pile of stems in a summer deluge. To support plants, we love rebar (metal poles for reinforcing concrete), which rusts and disappears along the plants, for staking heaving stems, or hazel branches pushed in around the base.
Keep deadheading and cutting flowers deep into the plants as often as you can and encourage more to come. Water thoroughly once a week and add a capful of organic liquid feed to your can, encouraging roots to grow deep down into the soil for ground water and anchoring the plants, as opposed to weaker, sappy growth from shallow roots.
As always, we have an eye on the future, sowing for the winter and following year
As always, we have an eye on the future, sowing for the winter and following year. In the kitchen garden, we are continuing to sow radishes, spring onions and lettuces. At the end of the month, we move to growing winter salads, with winter purslane being my top recommendation. Self-sowing, it’s also very hardy and full of vitamin C. Rocket, mizuna and mustards add colour and flavour all winter. They prefer cooler weather to germinate so we will start them in trays in the shade and plant them out when they are ready. Getting ahead now and sowing perennials and annuals for next year will give you earlier, larger and more prolific flowers. If you have space, direct-sow into position (the quickest and easiest way) or into pots to plant out later in autumn. Cornflowers, ammi, calendula, nigella and larkspur will all reward you handsomely next June, maybe May. But also orlaya, daucus and perennials like astrantia, echinacea and echinops will continue to flower for many years, all from a few plants sown in pots now. Plant out in the autumn when the roots fill the pot. These plants will flower for much of the summer, and for years to come.
August is both a forgiving and optimistic month in the garden. Anything done now to tend the plants will do much for flowering, and a few seeds sown will set you well ahead for the future.
Anna’s Flower Farm is located in Audley End, Saffron Walden. Check out the website for upcoming classes, courses and experiences, and to purchase floral arrangements.