Georgia Lewis - 17 August 2022
ARCHIVED - Is it too late to do gardening in August?
If you’re worried that you’ve missed the planting season for 2022, there is still time to propagate some green goodness…
This summer, we have endured record temperatures, travel chaos, and political soap operas, so it’s not surprising that gardening might have fallen off the to-do list.
But if you’re looking at a barren garden – or empty pots on the balcony – the good news is that there is still time to get planting, especially if you’re keen to grow your own food.
Salad days – this year
By August, you’ve missed the tomato-planting boat, although most pomodoro planters will tell you that all you’ve really missed is the opportunity to save a few quid at the supermarket on a couple of salads. But the good news is that plenty of leafy greens can be planted right now, such as lettuce, including rocket, spinach, chard, cabbage, sorrel, endive, fennel, and oriental greens.
It’s not too late to create late summer salads, if you plant speedy salad leaves. Look for ‘cut and come again’ lettuces like Red Cos and Green Bataria. Get them sown and you’ll be able to harvest baby leaves in just a few weeks’ time.
It doesn’t have to be summery salad though. Fill planters with a mix of beetroots, spring onions, green beans, and radishes for a colourful and crunchy salad bowl. These late summer veggies will be ready to harvest between 4-8 weeks’ time.
Amazingly you could still get some strawberry action going! Buy potted strawberry plants now and sow them into the soil straight away. They will only take around eight weeks of regular feeding and watering to fruit. But move quickly.
If you don’t want to wait until spring to enjoy the fruits and vegetables of your labours, there are a few crops you can plant now to enjoy before the end of the year.
Impatient gardeners can plant chicory now for a winter harvest, kohlrabi for late October dinner parties or fast-maturing carrots to enjoy with Christmas dinner. Kale is one of those that divides opinion, but if you’re a fan of this dark green smoothie favourite, it can be planted now for winter and spring crops.
Planting food for next year
It’s smart to plant your greens in a greenhouse or under a cloche, especially if you don’t live in the south of England or warmer parts of Wales – they’re pretty hardy crops, but still susceptible to suffering in the cold. If you plant now, you can have fresh, edible leaves next April, May and June, just in time for the 2023 salad season.
Spring onion seeds can be planted in the ground now for, as the name suggests, a spring harvest. Turnips can also be planted in the ground in August if you fancy channelling your inner Baldrick.
What about flowers and the like?
August is really too late to start cultivating your Chelsea Flower Show-winning roses, but there are other blooms you can plant towards the end of summer for a spring display. Bold, brash California poppies can live through winter despite their name conjuring up images of the Beach Boys.
Cornflowers grow well in pots, so they are a good bet for a burst of blue next year. Likewise, marigolds can be planted in the ground or in pots with vivid yellow flowers as the springtime reward.
There are a few flowers that bloom in winter that can be planted now for some Christmastime colour. Winter-flowering pansies, irises, crocuses, cyclamens and heather can be planted now – and they all work well in pots, for a pop of colour on balconies, in window boxes and in small outdoor spaces.
And if you really want to get festive, holly can be planted all year round, as long as the soil isn’t frozen. Plant now and you should have the traditional mix of spiky, glossy green leaves and red berries in time for the wreath on the front door.
So get out there!
Whether you are planting in pots or in the ground, it’s important to look after your soil for the best results from late summer planting. The Royal Horticultural Society recommends giving the soil a boost by sowing green manures, such as crimson clover and Italian ryegrass. These seeds will sprout to cover bare areas, or they can be dug in to improve soil texture and conserve nutrients.
Many of us may be feeling somewhat battered by the events of this summer, but hopefully the worst of the heatwave is behind us and those who want to flex their green fingers can do so, safe in the knowledge that there are still plenty of goodies that can go in the ground.