Jobs for August

1 Look after strawberries - once they've finished fruiting, cut back the leaves to about 10cm (4in) above the crown. Remove any foliage lying on the soil, which might harbour diseases, and cut away any unwanted runners. Apply a general-purpose fertiliser (such as Growmore) and give the plants a good watering.

2 Give evergreen hedges a trim - young birds should have fledged by now, so use this opportunity to give evergreen hedges a trim. This will allow any new growth time to harden up before winter and will give a crisply-edged structure throughout autumn and winter.

3 Feed baskets and containers - flowers in containers and hanging baskets will need a helping hand over the coming weeks to keep them blooming. Feed with a liquid fertiliser high in potash (such as tomato feed) once a week for an instant boost.

4 Watch for blackspot - warm, humid August weather is perfect for the fungal disease blackspot to thrive. It causes black patches to form on the foliage of roses, which then wither and fall. In the worst cases roses can be left completely bare. To stop it spreading, gather up any infected leaves that fall, and apply a chemical fungicide spray (such as RoseClear Ultra Gun £4.99 for 1L spray), or, for an organic method, try spraying with a mixture of one part milk, two parts water.

5. Take ‘insurance cuttings’ of tender perennials - pelargoniums and certain salvias will need to be given protection if they’re to survive the winter. Now’s the time to take softwood cuttings so you have a supply of new plants for next spring.

How to do it:
• Pick the right stems. Remove a few healthy, non-flowering stems from the plant – they should be about 10-15cm (4-6in) long. Morning is the best time to do this as the stems and leaves are full of water and the plants at their least stressed. Remove the cutting above a set of leaves with sharp clean secateurs and pop it into a plastic bag.
• Prepare the shoots. Trim each cutting to just below a set of leaves and then create a clean stem by removing the bottom third of leaves.
Plant the cuttings. Pop them around the edge of a pot filled with a 50:50 mix of compost and perlite (or, seed compost will do). Label, water and place the pots somewhere warm but out of direct sunlight.
Grow them on. Plant up into individual containers when roots appear at the bottom of the pot.

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