To-Do's in August

Tame your wisteria

Your Wisteria will have put on lots of growth in the last few months with long ‘whips’ reaching out and searching for new surfaces to conquer including drainpipes, television aerials, and roof tiles.  Be warned.  Now is the time to rein them in or train them out.  If it’s a young plant where you’re still trying to cover a wall or pergola, choose the shoots that are heading in the right direction and tie them onto the horizontal wires that you hopefully have in place.  Once this is done all other new shoots can be cut back by about two thirds.  (Don’t worry about cutting back to a certain amount of buds as is often recommended, it’s not necessary.  A final winter prune can be carried out in December.) 

Cut back herbs

Soft herbs like mint and chives will start to look pretty ragged by August.  Cut them down to the ground now, water, and they’ll shoot back giving you fresh tender growth to use over the next few months.

Renovate old lavender

There’s a commonly held belief that lavender can’t be pruned back into old wood but when a plant has been neglected for several years it can become leggy and lacking in flowers - the whole raison d'etre of growing lavender.  It’s now that an aggressive prune into the old wood can be carried out.  The advice is to carry out this renovation process on the 8th day of the 8th month.  Within a few weeks new growth will be spotted.  If you have a lot of lavender it’s a far cheaper option than replacing all of the plants when they get old.

Water sweetcorn

Sweetcorn cobs will be starting to swell now.  By keeping the plants well irrigated the chance of a bumper crop will be increased. 

Propagate herbs

Now is a great time to take cuttings of your rosemary, sage, or lavender.  If you’re giving them an annual prune you should have plenty of suitable material available.  Pick 10cm lengths of new growth and strip off the leaves from the lower stem. Insert about 5 or 6 cuttings into pots of well drained compost and water well.  Keep them out of direct sunlight in a cold frame or greenhouse where they should soon show signs of new growth.  After a couple of months they can be transferred into individual pots.


With many of us choosing to go away in August we are suddenly presented with the issue of keeping our plants watered and alive while we are away.  Watering systems are many and varied and can include pumps, gravity fed systems, capillary action, electronic timers, drip systems, ball floats, and sprinklers.  The choice and combinations are endless but can be simply resolved with the aid of a friendly neighbour.  Careful instructions however do need to be given.  Your friend needs to be taught how to water the pot, not the plant and water early in the morning or in the evening to avoid the heat of the day.  It helps if you move all of your pots into one place.  Grouping them together produces shade which will slow down evaporation.  Sit your pots in saucers if possible and remember that unglazed pots will dry out far quicker than plastic or glazed containers.  Some metal containers can get extremely hot if in full sun so try and keep them shaded by surrounding pots or paint them white.  Above all encourage your friend to give the plants a long deep drink rather than splashing the water around.  The provision of a hosepipe will encourage more thorough, deeper watering.