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Weekly Gardening Tips for Your Area


Aug. 2013 To-Do List: Northern & Central Midwest

Susan Wells

pruning flowersAs the heat of August brings an abundance of blooms, prune back or “deadhead” fading and spent flowers. There’s still time to enjoy a second show of blooms. Removing decaying plant parts helps eliminate the environment for the growth of diseases and reduces the invasion of insect pests. Deadheading also redirects energy from seed production to root and top growth.


•    At month’s end, take cuttings of geraniums, fuchsias, and begonias. Stick 3- to 4-inch green stem cuttings in damp perlite. Place pots in a shaded spot, and keep soil moist.

•    Start moving houseplants and other tender plants indoors so they can acclimatize.

•    Pull annuals that are past their prime and aren’t likely to recover. Mulch bare soil to deter weeds.

•    Container gardens, hanging baskets and window boxes dry out quickly in the heat and need frequent or even daily watering. They also need to be fertilized regularly.


•    Fall blooming perennials such as asters and mums should be fertilized regularly.

•    Divide or move perennials that have finished blooming.

•    As daylilies stop blooming and begin to look ragged, cut or mow the foliage.

•    Transplant peonies, bearded iris, and Oriental poppies. Dig peonies and separate into clumps with at least two “eyes” each. Replant so the eyes are between one and two inches below ground.


•    At month’s end, sow spinach in a cold-frame for spring harvest.

•    Harvest tomatoes, peppers, and hot season vegetables in the morning or evening when it is cool for best quality.

•    Monitor tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants carefully for water. Mulch heavily and keep the soil stays consistently moist under the mulch.

•    Once fruit is set, pinch off new blossoms on pumpkin and winter squash vines so the plants direct their energy into the existing fruits.

•    Powdery mildew usually appears in late summer. Apply fungicidal sprays to susceptible plants before it attacks.

•    Let your last planting of annual herbs such as dill, cilantro, caraway, and chervil go to seed for a new crop of plants early next season.

•    Clean up spent early crops and replace with cover crops, such as clover, oats, or barley.

•    During the summer heat, avoid applying pesticides, even insecticidal soaps. If you must, apply on a cool evening.

•    Plant fall crops such as green beans, broccoli and cauliflower (transplants), carrots, mustard greens, spinach, lettuce, kale and radishes. For lettuces and greens, plant in shaded areas if the weather is still hot.

Trees /Shrubs

•    Water trees during drought. A Tree-Gator is a good choice for a deep, thorough watering.

•    Shrubs that bloom in summer may be lightly pruned in August. 

•    Rambling roses and climbing roses can be pruned when blooming is complete.


•    Apply a winterizing fertilizer later in the month, a low nitrogen formula such as 18-0-12 ratio, to strengthen the lawn before winter without encouraging fast growth.

•    De-thatch the lawn every few years in late August when the weather begins to cool.

•    If the weather is dry, keep the lawn a bit long to conserve water as the blades of grass shade their own roots.

Image: Shutterstock/Dirima

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