News

Lawns

freshly mown lawnRaise the blades on the mower before cutting fine lawns. This will help reduce drought stress.

Mow lightly and frequently so that short grass clippings can remain on the lawn during hot summers to act as a moisture-retentive mulch. Excess thatch can be scarified out during autumn maintenance next month. Mulching mowers cut the clippings even finer than normal rotary blades, making the mulch less visible.

Lawns on thin soils may benefit from a high phosphate feed. This will strengthen the roots for winter, rather than encouraging lush top growth that could suffer in the cold and weaken the grass.

Avoid using lawn weedkillers in late summer - they will be more effective in the cooler, damper autumn weather.

Dig over any areas due to be grassed over later in the year. Leave them for a few weeks to allow weeds to re-emerge, and then spray with a weedkiller or hoe off to ensure thorough weed clearance before seeding or laying turf in the autumn.

Summer meadows may need mowing now if they have past their season of interest, especially in areas of the country where autumn comes earlier. In warmer parts of the UK, spring and early summer meadows that have extended their period of interest well into the summer could be cut now if not done already.
 


Troubleshooting

Browning of the lawn is very common at this time of year. Don’t water the grass unless absolutely necessary. It will green up when the autumn rains arrive.

Browning can be partially prevented next year by ensuring that the lawn is well scarified, aerated and drained later in the autumn, and that any soil compaction underneath is remedied before the following growing season.

On amenity and garden lawns, discrete brown patches are usually the product of dog waste, bitch urine, spilt petrol or oil, or weedkiller and fertiliser overdosing.

On finer turf, especially if it is underfed and frequently mown, patches can be the result of disease such as red thread (on sandy soils) and dollar spot (in damp weather). Feeding usually helps eliminate these problems.

Trees and shrubs

Wisteria brachybotrys 'Shiro-kapitan'Pruning and training

Prune wisteria and climbing shrubs such as Pyracantha after flowering.

Hebes and lavenders can be given a light prune after flowering.

Rambling roses can be pruned now, once they have finished flowering.

Give hedges a final trim over now. They will only grow a little before cold weather stops growth.

Get in qualified tree surgeons to remove large shrubs and trees that were casualties of winter waterlogging and summer drought. Remove stumps wherever possible, as rots could spread to other plants.
 


General maintenance

Continue to deadhead shrubs, such as roses, to extend flowering into early autumn. Spindly specimens that have lost leaves can be cut back a little further when deadheading, to encourage new growth.

Thoroughly soak drought-stressed plants and shrubs, especially newly planted ones. Use grey, recycled or stored rain water wherever possible.

Keep early-flowering shrubs such as Camellia and Rhododendron well watered during dry periods to ensure good flower bud initiation.
 


Propagation

Semi-ripe cuttings can still be taken to propagate many common garden shrubs (e.g. box, Ceanothus, lavender).

Rhododendrons, azaleas and Clematis can be propagated by layering.
 


Pest and disease watch

Brown patches, needle loss and sooty mould on spruce (Picea) trees are evidence of green spruce aphid damage earlier in the year.

Mid to late August is a good time of the year to apply biological controls for vine weevil. Grubs will be starting to hatch and soil temperatures are now suitable for the nematodes to be effective. Target vulnerable plants such as RhododendronCamellia and containerised plants including fuchsias.

Black spot on roses is very common at this time of year, and spraying will no longer be effective. Clear fallen leaves and burn them to prevent spread.

Powdery mildew can be a problem in dry summers.

Leaf drop, disfigured and damaged leaves can be a symptom of weather damage.

Structures

shed maintenanceTake advantage of the dry weather by painting fences, sheds and other wooden features with a preservative. Check that any products used are within their use-by date, and still legal. Many of the old oil-based products such as creosote are no longer approved for domestic use.

Clean up patios and hard surfaces to get rid of moss and algae. Doing this job now will prevent them becoming slippery during the winter.

Replace broken glass panes in greenhouses and fix leaking shed roofs before the autumn rains. Greenhouse guttering can also be checked to ensure it is not blocked with debris.