What to do in the garden in August

Your garden is mostly dormant in winter and the cold, wet weather makes it hard to get outside. But August marks the transition period between the cold and warm months, making it a great time to get out there and get your garden ready for spring.

What to pick

Once August comes around, your winter crops will have reached the end of their growth cycle. If you’ve planted any winter veggies or herbs, then it’s your last chance to reap the benefits.

Harvest any remaining artichoke, asparagus, beetroot, broad beans, broccoli, Brussels sprout, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, celery, leek, lettuce, silverbeet, spinach, radish, peas and snow peas.

Gather up your herbs, including chives, curry, dill, mint, parsley, sage and thyme. Then dry them out so that they’ll last longer.

For warmer areas, your eggplant, okra, pigeon peas, snake beans, sweet potato, rosella, and watermelons should all be ready to enjoy.

What to plant

When it comes to growing, timing is everything. You can still plant winter veggies like peas, broad beans, onions, spring onions, chives, and leeks. It’s getting a bit late for cabbages, cauliflower and broccoli now but you could still plant in some good-sized seedlings at the start of the month.

Early varieties of spring vegetables like carrots, silverbeet, and spinach can tolerate the cold. However, you’re better off with seedlings because seeds will take a while to come up.

If you’re really keen, you can grow spring and summer vegetable seedlings indoors. Plant pumpkins, beans, tomatoes, corn, zucchini or watermelons in seed trays and place them in a well-lit area. Nurse them through until the weather warms up and transfer to your garden in spring.

But if you live in a warmer region, you can start on spring vegetables a bit earlier. Think about snow peas, rocket, silverbeet, spring onions, cabbage, lettuce, parsley, zucchini, pumpkin, leek and parsnip.

And as it gets warmer, sow tomatoes, capsicum, eggplant, beans, cucumber, pumpkin, beetroot, silverbeet, cabbage, carrots, lettuce, radish, and even early season potatoes.

What to do

If you want your garden to thrive in spring, then you need to do your groundwork now. With a bit of planning you can ensure its success all the way through to summer.

Build up your soil

The biggest thing you can do for your garden in August is feed the soil. Start digging in any compost and manures, and adding fertilisers, so that they’re breaking down by the time you’re ready to plant.

This will improve your soil’s ability to use moisture, encourage worm activity, and promote microbes that help release the nutrients in your soil. It also increases fibrous root growth to suck up all that nutrition.

Weed regularly

After the rains subside, the last thing your plants need is competition for water and nutrients. It’s important to weed regularly so that they don’t take a hold. Once you’ve removed them, throw down a layer of mulch. It’ll deprive the weeds of the light they need to germinate and stop any airborne seeds from landing on your soil and taking root.

Mulch

Mulching is always a great idea because it improves soil structure and helps retain moisture for the warmer months ahead. Remember, if you plant seeds you can’t mulch until they’ve established themselves.

Pea straw mulch is ideal because it adds more nutrients to your soil than most other mulches. Lay down a 10cm thick layer over the soil around your plants, which will last about 12 months. You can even put down a layer of newspaper first to reduce evaporation and lock in the moisture.

Prune your plants and trees

Pruning plants gets them back into shape and encourages new growth. The end of winter is the time to do it because most of them are dormant or at the end of their flowering cycle.

Roses and fruit trees need a hard prune. Remove any dead, diseased or crossing branches. Cut off old flower heads on young plants and cut back the branches on mature plants by up to a third. Make sure you cut cleanly so that it’s easier for the plant to heal.

After pruning, it’s a good idea to give plants a spray with lime sulphur, which stops exposed cuts from getting fungal infections. Also spray on the ground, at the base of the plant, to get rid of any fungal spores that could infect your plant later.

Get planting

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