Monthly Top Jobs

March heralds the arrival of Spring so there is always a lot to do in the garden…

  • Prune shrub roses (see separate advice note on rose pruning) and give a good mulch of manure afterwards making sure not to cover the base of the plant as roses hate that.
  • Prune mophead hydrangea back to first two plump buds and cut out one or two of the oldest stems at the base to encourage new growth.
  • Prune Hydrangea Paniculata in much the same way but these can be pruned harder by cutting back to the lowest pair of healthy buds to create a low framework of branches which should produce large flowers.
  • Prune the coloured stems of cornus (dogwood) to encourage new growth. Stick cut stems in jugs of water and they will bud and flower for weeks.
  • Prune cotinus (smoke bush). Mine is a bit of a thug so I am quite ruthless pruning down to around 50cm at the expense of the flowers but the resulting leaf display is fabulous!
  • Cut back honeysuckle – again be quite ruthless if the plant has got out of hand.
  • Cut down perennials such as Penstemons and Perovskia (Russian Sage). Penstemons can be cut down almost to ground level and Perovskia to around 15cm.
  • Shear off old leaves of Epimedium to allow fresh new leaves to pop up from below.
  • Start mulching with manure or a combination of well rotted leaf mould and compost.

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Jobs to do in the garden in July

July is normally the month when I try to relax and enjoy the fruits of my labours!  But there are still some essential tasks that need doing in the garden:

  • Continue hoeing weeds when it is warm so they will simply shrivel on the surface and you can gather them up.
  • Cut back hardy geraniums after flowering – some varieties will then flower again.
  • Continue deadheading perennial such as Geums and Penstemons to encourage continual flowering.
  • Prune early-summer flowering shrubs such as Philadelphus and Weigela.  I normally cut back the flowered growth to a strong lower shoot and with larger specimens thin out up to a fifth of the old, woody stems.
  • Water your clematises and honeysuckle in long, dry spells to discourage powdery mildew.
  • Continue deadheading roses to encourage flowering.
  • Keep an eye on shrubs with variegated foliage and cut out any that has reverted making sure you go right back to the source.
  • Start summer pruning wisteria by cutting back any long, whippy shoots to five or six buds from a main stem.
  • Stake dahlias if required before they grow too tall and start bending over!
  • Prune cherry and plum trees after fruiting by removing weak, damaged and crossing branches and thin slightly if required.

Jobs to do in the garden in August

August can be a hot month so make sure that you water regularly – ideally using water collected in a water butt. Although a lot of plants will start going over during the month there are still some essential tasks to do:

  • Give mixed hedges a summer cut now all the birds have fledged.
  • Continue pruning wisteria, cutting off the ‘wispy bits’ back to two or three buds and making sure that gutters and drainpipes are clear.
  • Prune lavender once it has finished flowering by cutting back two thirds of the growth making sure that you don’t cut into old wood. This will prevent your lavender becoming woody.
  • Continue deadheading perennials such as heleniums, dahlias, penstemon and phlox.
  • Continue deadheading and tying in climbing roses.
  • Tie in new growth of rambling roses ready for pruning in January.
  • Cut back macedonia and achillea to encourage a second flush of growth and flowers.
  • Cut back and tidy up hardy geraniums and alchemilla mollis.
  • Cut back deciduous honeysuckle once it has finished flowering, removing a third of the flowering shoots.

Jobs to do in September

There is still quite a lot to do in the garden this month as the summer disappears and autumn looms on the horizon. Top jobs for September include:

  • Cutting down perennials once flowering has finished including phlox, knautia macedonia, astrantia, peonies and crocosmia. Don’t cut down penstemons or sedum varieties such as ‘Purple Emperor’ – let them overwinter with a good mulch and then cut down in the spring.
  • Cut back hardy geraniums
  • Continue deadheading roses, penstemons and dahlias.
  • Divide perennials such as crocosmia – particularly if the flowering has not been that good – as this will encourage better flowers for next year.
  • Evergreen hedges including box can be given a final trim before winter sets in.
  • Make sure that you raise the height of the cut when mowing the lawn which should now be done less frequently depending on the weather.
  • Lawns can be hardened up for winter by applying a potassium-rich autumn feed after scarifying and aerating the lawn first.
  • Continue removing dead leaves from pond surfaces and also dead leaves from water lilies as the foliage dies back.

Jobs to do in October

The weather is starting to turn colder this month and the leaves are turning on the trees heralding the arrival of the colder weather. Main jobs in October are:

  • Continue cutting down perennials
  • Life and divide overcrowded perennials such as euphorbia, iris, salvia, sedum. Lift the plant gently with a fork and shake off excess soil so that you can clearly see the roots. Depending on the type of plant it can then be divided into smaller clumps either by hand or with a fork or spade and replanted in the garden making sure that it is well watered in.
  • After the first frost life dahlias and canna to overwinter. Alternatively they can be left in the ground in warmer areas and covered with a thick protective mulch such as straw or wood chippings.
  • Shrubs and trees can be moved.
  • Shrubs such as buddleja and mallow which are pruned hard in spring can be cut back by one third now to prevent wind rock.
  • Clear out ponds of dead leaves, debris and excess oxygenating plants leaving them on the side of the pond for 38 hours to enable any wildlife to escape back into the water.