What to do in August

What a summer we have had! Many  have had to spend it here in Ireland for the first time in years!

The great thing is that being present has made many more aware of their garden potential and what they had been missing.

There is no such thing as no maintenance,(that includes me), but it is the job and rewards we receive that make it all worth while – flowers, food,wildlife and vitamin D.

Keeping on top of jobs – weeding, pruning and keeping the lawn edges sharp can take away much of the pressure.Now is the time to start –

  1. Tidying up borders. Don’t chop everything, allow littler creatures to have protection, from the elements and other predators and enjoy the seed heads of Crocosmia lucifer, Agapanthus for many more months- but no harm to take way the really decaying bits.
  2. Turn your compost into another bin in preparation for refilling.As leaves fall start collecting, black plastic bags with holes can be useful to store this valuable product.
  3. Trim your low hedges (box) and  get organised to trim the larger ones in late September or before the first frosts.Prue lteflowering shrubs.
  4. Keep dead heading your annuals such as  sweet pea, cosmos until you decide to leave to set seed which you can then later harvest for sowing either in November or next year.Also dahlias, if you decide to lift them, mark the tubers with a marker by colour,so maybe you can plant by colour next year.If you leave them in the ground, cover with an organic mulch and remember to pull it back in February before the slugs wake up. Again dahlias  can keep going until the first frost. – October depending where you are.
  5. Tidy up strawberry plants and remove any old straw from around the plants to improve ventilation and reduce the risk of pests and diseases. Strawberry ‘Skyline could be worth investigating as it is a climber a great idea for small space.Pot up strawberry runners beside parent and when own roots established you have your new fresh plant to start off for next year. Strawberries are at their peak year3 ,so time to replace for year 4.
  6. Aphid  attack on cardoons, sweet pea and lupins- lots more , use a soapy solution in a hand spray (hose could be too strong) rhubarb leaves boiled in water, use the cooled water as a drench as it contains oxalic acid which is highly toxic to humans and aphids.Aphids can be  brown,  black, green and white. Ants have a symbiotic relationship with aphids by providing nature for  aphid eggs in return for their a sugary food produced by aphids.
  7. August – Autumn,  time to start planning for spring( happily winter takes care of itself). BULBS, great selection coming into garden centres now. The last bulbs to plant are tulips- winter job.
  8. Also opportunity to take cuttings. Select green, non-woody stems for taking tip cuttings. Newer growth is easier to root than woody stems,but we re coming into “Hard wood season”.Locate a stem that has a node, the spot on the stem where a leaf is or was attached. It looks like a joint on the stem and it is the area that will generate new roots. Use scissors or a razor blade that has been sterilised in alcohol/boiling water, to make a clean cut, just below a node. The cutting doesn’t need to be very long, a single node with a couple of leaves will be fine. Before taking any cuttings, get your pots and supplies ready. You should get the cuttings trimmed and planted immediately after removing them from the donor plant.Cuttings do best with consistent moisture, so  plastic rather than terracotta  pots , since terracotta  dries out faster. But, if you can check on your plants every day, terracotta is better as it is breathable.Also making a little tent over will help to contain moisture, along with  a little bottom  can speed up rooting.
  9. To help guarantee flowers on your Camellias next year, check to make sure they do not dry out in the next couple of months, as flower buds are set now and can be dropped during a dry spell.
  10. Take lots of photos, to remind yourself in February, of what the garden looks like now, nd you will be delighted with what you have achieved.

Sunday, September 30.Gardening Workshop covering the basics.

The garden is now going to sleep, and now is also the time to plan your beautiful garden for next year.
Seed sowing at this time of year can give you a head start on Spring, roots develop and are stronger. Division of plants- making more, moving plants to better positions, planting bulbs for spring and summer. Feeding your soil, protecting it for the weather ahead- drought, are a few of what we will be covering.

Roses and their care

I was asked today on Spirit Radio about rose care.Not an expert on roses but I know with all flowering plants a good foundation in rich organic soil is the key to a healthy plant.

Coming into May they are should be growing well. To encourage flowers as it is all about the roses.


  • All dead and diseased wood.
  • Stand back and look at its shape.
  • Branches that are crossing keep the one that will allow the plant to grow out. You should be looking for a cup shape. This allows air to circulate, cutting down on a spore bone fungus called Grey mould.
  • If you didn’t get around to pruning in the autumn — this prevents the roses rocking in heavy wind and also aids shape development, prune lightly as the new growth will produce the flowers.
  • Check the ground for old leaves as they can harbour the spores of last years Blackspot. Don’t add these leaves to your compost unless you know they will break down very well.
  • Apply a mulch of well-rotted manure or simply an organic mulch which will prevent any remaining spores from splashing up not the new growth.
  • Hopefully with a good mulch at the base protecting the soil from evaporation yours should be ok but wind can be a feature of drying — remember how our clothes dry on the clothesline, well the same applies to our plants. Keep an eye-the plant will also tell you. Roses don’t like overwatering either.


  • Some roses only flower once and the ones that repeat will need feeding during the growing season to encourage new flowers.This can be a foliar feed or a drench at the base of the plant.I will often give a second feeding just as the first big bloom starts to develop, and one more in the middle of the summer to promote later flushes.
  • Also, roses need to be watered during dry spells. The Alhambra in Spain is a scented garden with many roses, and it was the development of an excellent irrigation system by the Moore’s which allowed them to do so.Repeat bloomers, you can feed them several times through the growing season to encourage additional blooms.
  • Overfeeding can produce sappy growth which is open to aphid  attack – back and whitefly.Using a pressurised hose to wash off is one solution Aphids, do the same job to plants that mosquitoes do to humans, they introduce a virus.

Where to grow.

  • Lots of sunlight, growing in shady conditions they will not flourish to their potential.
  • Traditionally rose were grown on their own — they can look magnificent but also awful.The advantage is that you are able to keep a close eye on them, preventing black spot and also easier to feed at once.Plants like companionship, as in isolation any visiting predators have only the roses to feast on.
  • I like to grow mine in mixed beds, but I actually was received gifts of roses shrubs in memory of my sister Frances and ended up planting them together, but my intention is to fill up the space around them with annuals such as- Cosmos, bulbs Alliums, lavender Lavandula, Nepeta catmint, Alchemilla mollies ladies mantle, Dianthus pinks. Good companions also act as living mulches—suppressing weeds and lightly shading the soil, keeping their roots nice and cool, with their heads in the sun.

Companion planting with roses

  • Good rose companions are those that hide their bare legs. Traditionally, lavender (Lavandula), catmint (Nepeta), lady’s mantle (Alchemilla)great in an arrangement, and tall growing pinks (Dianthus) Alliums all make good partners. Good companions also act as living mulches—suppressing weeds and lightly shading the soil, keeping their roots nice and cool, heads in the sun.
  • Alliums including ornamental alliums deter aphids and other pests by confusing them with their strong scent. They also help roses combat black spot. While garlic and chives are most commonly recommended.That is why you will see roses growing vegetable gardens.
  • Yarrow – attracts ladybugs, which will then eat any nearby aphids.
  • Marigolds  (Calendula and Tagetes) — deter pests and help encourage strong plant growth.
  • True Geraniums  – repel Japanese beetles, aphids, and other rose beetles Another important insect in your garden is the wasp as they also feed on aphids.

Planting roses.

When buying roses, to be sure you are getting the colour you want, buy them in bloom.Although the best time is in autumn, then you might not get what you want.Most roses are planted on a rootstock, that of a wild rose, leave this exposed so that if you see the growth you can prune it away — if left it will take over.

•First, give the root ball a good soak in a bucket of water for 15 minutes before you plant.If the compost is dry, it will remain dry in the hole.

•Dig a hole around one 30 cm -foot deep and at least a 30cm-foot wider all around than the root ball of the plant.

•Add some organic matter generously; again garden compost or well-rotted horse manure is ideal, around the planting hole. You want the roots to search out nutrition and not remain happy in its spot.Also, try digging a square hole.

If you are planting in a position where there had been a rose, add some Mycorrhizal Fungi to the planting hole. Make sure the roots are in contact as they act as a bridge from the roots to the soil allowing for quicker and better root establishment. Where roses had been grown previously, the soil could be tired, another good reason to add plenty of organic matter.

In Kew Botanical gardens they have completely changed the soil in their rose garden as the roses had been performing for many years and it was felt the soil was completely exhausted. Our gardens would not have had the same pressure but a healthy well-fed soil will provide great rewards, not only for roses but for all your plants.

This is the tip of the iceberg concerning roses. One more thing, plant scented roses.

I hope this was of help.