House martin young about to land between two adults on telephone wire

August gardening tips

The sight of house martins lined up on telephone wires marks the turn of the year and signals the approach of autumn.

Birds in your garden

By mid-August swifts have already left for Africa, although swallows and house martins linger a little bit longer, gathering in flocks before embarking on their long migration.

It's harder to spot some of our shy all-year-round residents, such as the dunnock and wren, hidden in hedges and thickets. If you keep a bird bath well topped up with water, you'll tempt them out for early morning bathing as well as provide much-needed drinking water in dry weather. It's a good idea to raise your birdbath off the ground, and place it in the open, giving birds a clear view of danger.

Planting in August

The colours in the garden tend toward gold and bronze as the brighter early and mid-summer flowers fade. It's the time of year to enjoy ornamental grasses for their seedheads, and plants that thrive in dry, hot conditions, such as lavender and rosemary. Herbaceous perennials in flower at this time of year include: campanula, echinops, Geranium psilostemon, coreopsis, phlox, Erigeron acer, penstemon, aster and helenium.

Shrubs and trees come into their own when herbaceous plants fade and can maintain interest in your garden through summer into winter. Good summer-flowering shrubs include lavatera, hebe, Viburnum opulus and V. lantana, shrubby potentilla, philadelphus and escallonia. 

The elder Sambucus nigra Guincho Purple is good for shady areas and has attractive purple leaves, as well as flowers in early summer.

Thinking ahead to autumn, you could start letting flowers, and perhaps a few vegetables if you grow them, run to seed to provide food for birds and other wildlife. Seedheads tend to look more attractive than bare earth in the winter. Leave some windfall apples, pears and plums for birds to feed on. 

Birds are also likely to be tempted by your soft fruits such as raspberry and gooseberry, so if you don't want to share, you'll have to cover them with 4 cm netting, this wider netting reduces the possibility of birds getting caught up. The netting should be taut, and hanging old CDs from it is a good way to make it more visible. 

Jobs for the month

  • Dead-head roses and other perennial plants to encourage them to keep flowering
  • Allow lawns to grow slightly longer to tolerate hot weather
  • Trim evergreen hedges
  • Water pots and hanging baskets
  • Feed plants in pots regularly
  • Keep ponds topped up with rainwater
  • Trim back lady's mantle