Late summer can be a strange time as gardens become dry and lose their lustre. Although it might feel like summer is ending, there are relatively easy steps that can be taken to extend the outdoor season and make the most of your garden space whilst the sun still shines.
Pots for a quick fix
Strategically placed pots with fresh blooms or foliage can really pep up a space at this time of year. Always keep a few spare pots so that you can make a quick trip to the garden centre and add instant colour here and there as needed. Choosing perennials means you will get double value as you can pop it into a bed once it has finished flowering in autumn. Alternatively, if a plant has finished its season in your summer containers, whip it out and into a bed and replace it with something that will continue flowering for the weeks ahead.
Spruce it up
Deadheading faded and dying blooms is therapeutic and will encourage new blooms and perk your garden up no end.
Keep things watered to keep them looking good or, if you’re battling heatwaves and hosepipe bans, consider mulching soil to lock in moisture and providing temporary shade over the hottest days to protect plants from extreme sun.
It’s best not to mow lawns during periods of heat as it places stress on the grass which can cope better with dry spells if left to grow a bit longer. A good trim around the perimeter will go some way to tidying it up though.
Give decking a sweep with a stiff brush to remove debris and if you have any wild flower areas, now is a good time to strim as the seeds will have dropped.
Pond weed can be an issue at this time of year – remove it and leave it at the side of the pond for a few hours to allow beneficial insects to return to their habitat. Keep away from pets though as it can cause upset stomachs if ingested.
Still time to sow
If you still have your sowing mojo at this time of year, there is still time to get things going!
The warmer temperatures in August are perfect for seed germination - quick growing crops such as salad leaves, radish and spinach, and late harvest crops such as kohlrabi and chard are ideal and very rewarding for children to plant in their school holidays.
August is also a good time to get a head start on blooms for next year by sowing hardy annual flowers such as cornflower, larkspur and calendula for spring flowering and biennials such as foxgloves, wallflowers and sweet williams.
For a low effort, low budget approach, gather dried seeds from poppies, aquilegias and forget-me-nots and scatter where you would like them to appear next year.
Look around and plan
August is a good time to take photos of your borders, identify any gaps and plan for next year. If your garden is all about June and late summer is a little lacklustre, consider adding plants to ensure more constant colour and volume throughout the season.
Japanese anemone, liriope muscari, sedum, penstemon and monarda (bee balm) can provide welcome punches of colour in late summer/autumn and plants such as salvia, catmint, yarrow, geranium and coreopsis are drought tolerant and have extremely long flowering seasons.
For instance, geranium ‘Rozanne’ can be cut back after its first flowering in May/June to provide a second splash of colour later in the summer.
When a garden becomes less floriferous, it’s good to have a backdrop of evergreens, variegated foliage and interesting shrubs to maintain interest.
Persicaria runcinata is valued more for its colourful arrow-shaped leaves than its flowers – it is rigorous, can be easily propagated to make extra plants and is an excellent vase filler.
Also consider ornamental grasses for movement and small trees such as acers for beautiful leaf shapes and autumn ambers and reds.
Party into autumn
Mornings and evenings can become slightly chillier in late summer. Adding cushions and blankets to an outdoor space can make an area more visually tempting and extend the hours of use with some welcome warmth.
If you’re entertaining and suddenly realise that your garden is past its best, adding vases of flowers to a table setting and floral table linen and seat cushions can provide a visual boost.
What might seem like a long list of jobs for one person can be made into light work if the whole family is recruited and jobs are shared out – it need only take a few hours to freshen up a space and keep it working for you and yours well into autumn.