August is a gorgeous time in the garden. Everything is ripe and succulent. The variety of blooming perennials and annuals is stunning and farmer’s markets are overflowing with bounty. Make sure you are ready for the bounty with supplies for freezing, canning and drying of fruits and vegetables. Research the easiest and safest ways to “put up” the harvest for winter use.
Vegetables and Fruit
• Keep everything cleanly picked. Letting one or two cucumbers or other fruits or vegetables go to seed will stop plants from producing.
• Put cardboard, newspaper or hay under melons and squash in the garden to keep them clean, dry and worm free until they ripen.
• Plant second crops of bush beans, cucumbers and squash.
• Plan your fall garden and start seeds for chard, collards, broccoli, and cabbage. In the Northwest, successive plantings of radishes and peas directly in the garden will make before frost. Transplants of cole crops and other winter greens, such as mustard and endive, can be set out now.
• Fertilize vegetables from which you expect a second crop, such as bush and pole beans and tomatoes.
• If areas of your garden are done for the summer, plant green manure such as vetch, rye, clover or cowpeas. In areas where you will plant your fall garden, spread a layer of compost, rake it into the soil and water. Cover with mulch. Your soil will be nice and moist and crumbly when you get ready to plant later in the month.
• Cut back canes of raspberries and blackberries to the ground after they fruit unless they are evergreen varieties. For those, prune the fruiting canes only.
• Move rooted strawberry runners where you want them in the bed, or pot them up to give away or replant in the spring.
• Harvest herbs for drying just before they flower. A note on basil: Downy mildew can destroy your crop. To combat it, thin plants to allow good air circulation and make sure they get plenty of sunshine. The fungus will not harm humans, so harvesting and making pesto at the first sign of disease is an option. Signs of the disease are yellowing leaves and dark colored spots (spores) on the undersides of leaves.
• Keep deadheading. Cut just above the first set of leaves below the spent flower. Many annuals and perennials will bloom again.
• Take cuttings of plants to bring in for the winter, such as geranium or Artemisia. Strip off all but the top few leaves, dip in rooting hormone and plunge into pots of moist sand or perlite. Make sure to keep moist. You should have transplants ready for spring.
• Divide Japanese iris.
• Plant lilies for next spring’s bloom.
• Sow pansies, columbines, daisies and veronicas.
• Cut back leggy, spent verbena.
• Shear dianthus, lavender and spirea of old blooms, fertilize and water. You may get another bloom.
• Cut only a third of the height of the grass in each mowing. In rainy periods, this may mean mowing every week or five days.
• If the weather is dry, raise your mowing deck to 2 inches or more. The grass will shade its own roots and conserve water.
• Plan and order shrubs and trees for fall planting.
• Take hardwood cuttings of shrubs for rooting.
• Prune evergreens now if needed.