Spring is fast approaching, and while there are still a few weeks of winter left, for most gardeners the weather is warming up, inviting you to spend more time outside. If the weather is kind, August is a great time to get out in the garden and prime it for the growing season ahead, but it's also the month when lengthening days mean sowing a much wider range of seeds becomes possible.
There are plenty of vegetable, herb and flower seeds that can be sown in late winter and early spring right around Australia. In cool climates its a good time to establish root crops, onions and asparagus, while those in warm climates can get stuck straight into a huge range of summer veg.
Indoor sowing can start small with a few pots on a sunny windowsill, but if you want to get the growing year going in style, investing in a few mini-greenhouses or a heat mat or two can let you scale up your germination speeds and success rates, providing a bounty of healthy young seedlings in just a few weeks.
What to Grow Now:
Seeds such as broad beans, cabbage, spinach, and carnations appreciate the relatively cool weather and can be sown directly in the garden now to make an early start before their more tender garden cousins.
In cool climates the main sowing action for August takes place indoors. With just a month until spring arrives, tomatoes, chillies, eggplant, and rosella which are sown indoors now should be at the perfect stage for transplanting when milder and more reliable weather arrives. They'll greatly benefit from the few weeks' head start under comfortable indoor conditions and will reward you with a greater yield and earlier ripening.
Other seeds that can be sown in August can be found at the links below:
▩ Cold Climate: Tasmania, Melbourne, Mt Gambier, Canberra, etc.
▩ Moderate Climate: Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, etc.
▩ Warm Climate: Brisbane, Bundaberg, Carnarvon, etc.
▩ Tropical Climate: Broome, Darwin, Cairns, Townsville, etc.
▩ Not sure which climate? Click here.
Garden Tips for August:
Garden Planning: Planning your sowing for the coming months will help you squeeze more out of your veggie and flower patches and can also result in a more rewarding display as new crops steadily mature throughout the year. Use August's last few weeks of quiet time to think about which new seeds you want to try, which old favourites are an essential to repeat, and how you can best fit them into your space for great season-long results. Read our article on effective spring and summer veggie patch planning here.
Soil Improvement: August is a great time to give your soil some care and attention before the new season's growth kicks in. Digging in a layer of rotted manure or compost will boost fertility and improve drainage, while applying lime before sowing or planting can balance out any pH issues and make a big difference to the nutrients your plants can access. Even if your soil is already in great condition, a quick dig over with a garden fork will improve aeration and drainage to give your seedlings a healthier start.
Replenish Container Soil: The soil in containers can also be replenished in August while most potted plants are growing more slowly. Repot suitable plants with fresh potting mix after sterilising pots and containers. Or for plants with delicate root systems which hate being transplanted, carefully remove the top few centimetres of soil and replace with fresh mix to rejuvenate soil and avoid compaction.
Tool Maintenance: Great tools make gardening work much easier, but keeping your favourite tools in prime condition is more important than spending a fortune on high-end gear. If you didn't clean, sharpen and oil your secateurs, spades and loppers before putting them away for winter, now's the time to do it before they're called back into action. Similarly, empty containers and seed trays should now be cleaned and sterilised to prevent fungus, pests and virus build-up from affecting your new season's sowings.
Frost Protection: In some areas it's still too early to discount the risks of frost. Be careful about transferring over-wintered pot plants to their warm weather homes, keeping an eye on the weather forecast so you can provide shelter if needed. And if a few early starters are poking through in the open soil, consider laying down a protective mulch or fleece layer or using a cloche to keep a sudden cold snap from doing too much harm.
Pests: If August in your area usually comes with winter rains, you can expect slugs and snails to be stepping up their damaging activity. Stay on guard and remove as many as you can, and their numbers won't spiral out of control once the weather starts to warm. And if you have any early plant growth, keep an eye open for aphids and remove by hand or using a homemade spray of soap and water.
August is the cusp of the new growing year, and for most gardeners it's the ‘calm before the storm’ of spring gardening. Use the remaining few weeks of winter wisely by getting your garden in good shape, and your efforts will pay off with healthy growth of all your favourite plants over spring and summer.