Nature’s clock is giving us longer days to enjoy working out in our gardens. With the heat of August, remember that water and shade are important factors for all living things. Keep a lightweight garden hat, sunscreen and insect repellant within reach. Work only in the morning or evening, not the heat of the day. Provide fresh water for the birds, bees and butterflies. Though they’ll enjoy the remaining nectar from plants, fresh water will be an added bonus and will attract them to your garden.
• Continue harvesting daily as vegetables are ready to pick. Early in the day is best for flavor and freshness. Don’t let any vegetables get too ripe on the vine. One overripe cucumber will tell the plant it’s time to stop producing.
• Early morning harvesting of herbs is when the oils are most concentrated so the flavor will be at its peak.
• Watering in the early morning allows leaves a chance to dry out before the heat of the day and reduces fungal infections.
• Remember to water deeply. Leafy vegetables need to be watered to a depth of 6” – 1’. Okra, corn and tomatoes should be watered to a depth of 1’ – 2’. If you are growing your vegetables in containers, you will need to water more frequently.
• If you are starting vegetables from seed for the fall garden, plant them deeper than suggested on the seed packs. Plant in a light composted soil, mulch then mist daily. A floating row cover will help minimize heat stress and protect the new seedlings from birds.
• Continue drying herbs and canning or freezing fruits and veggies.
• As areas of the garden die back, remove plant debris. Compost only disease-free plant material, without seeds.
• August is a good time to consider ‘solarizing’ your soil, particularly if nematodes, soil-borne disease, fungus and weeds have been a problem. To solarize soii, remove garden plants, rake in a thin layer of compost. After a light watering, cover with a heavy plastic sheeting, anchoring it to the ground with bricks or pins. The extreme temperatures of August magnified by the plastic will heat the soil about 140 degrees. Leave the plastic in place for 2 months to do the work. No need to worry about the worms. They’ll go deeply underground to stay cool.
• Most flowers can keep blooming throughout August if deadheaded properly. Pinch spent flowers, or use a hand pruner / scissors to cut the stems. Cut back any yellowed or leggy plants. Then feed with a well-diluted fish emulsion or side dress with compost.
• Continue to plant zinnias and nasturtiums. Keep an eye on fungal diseases popping up, if you have had a combination of heavy rains and high temps.
• Zinnia seeds will have time to give you a nice show of color before the end of the season. They are drought tolerant, but can be prone to fungal infections if they receive too much water. If there is a high side of a bed, this is where you should plant the zinnias.
• Take cuttings of those beautiful coleus in your garden to start new plants for inside your home. Cut the stems below the third set of leaves, at an angle. Remove all but the top set of leaves, and place in a clear container with fresh water. After a hearty set of roots has formed, use rooting hormone to dip the rooted stem into and then plant in a clean pot with fresh, moistened potting soil, sand or perlite.
• Many perennial plants, after several seasons, will begin to die out in the center. Dividing perennial plants gives you healthier, longer lived plants, plus some to share with friends or move around your own garden. Keep an eye out for clumps that have grown 2-3 times their size within 2-5 years. These are your best choices for division. Divide your perennials, this month, in the coolest hours of the day. Amend your soil, with compost, for the new transplants and the remaining ones. Thoroughly water in.
• Plan for next spring and summer by ordering bulbs and rhizomes to be planted this fall. They usually ship in August through November.
• Now is the time to think about that bed of daffodils you want for next spring. Till the bed deeply, add compost and plant with a ground cover like ajuga or pachysandra. When your bulbs come in and it’s time to plant, slide a shovel, or trowel, down as deep as you want the bulb and pull back the soil, drop in the bulb and pull out the shovel, and cover with soil. You won’t disturb your ground cover at all.
• Start saving seeds from hostas and lilies. If your area receives a lot of rain, watch for snails and fungus occurring in the hosta beds.
• Watch for spider mites! They love hot dry weather. An easy way to eliminate them from the garden is with a strong blast of water from the garden hose. Make sure to blast the underside of the leaves.
• Prune roses after blooms have died back, with a clean, sharp bypass pruner. Make your cut a downward angle after a 5 leaflet leaf at an outward facing bud. The angle and outward facing bud will keep water from flowing toward the center of the bush. Cover the ‘wound’ with a bit of wood glue to keep out cane borers.
• Roses should receive an inch of water each week.
• Remove and discard any diseased branches and leaves with black spot as soon as they appear.
• A good, light foliar feed with a compost tea is good this month for your roses.
• Prune heavy, sagging branches from your butterfly bushes to keep them from breaking.
• Take hardwood cuttings from shrubs you want to root. Dip the cutting into water, then rooting hormone, then plunge into potted moist sand, perlite or potting soil. Put in a shady location and wait. You should have a transplant ready for next spring.
• Our trees are suffering from high temperatures. Water, water, water at the drip line. If you have an abundance of surface roots, the water may not soak into the ground very well Deep holes can be augered into the area under the drip line, but may disturb the roots and give way to nesting yellow jackets Carefully observe the absorption of your water to minimize runoff and waste. Keep vulnerable trees mulched to the dripline.
• Stress from drought will cause an early fruit and nut drop.
• Protect smooth barked tree trunks from ‘sun scald.’ It is a sunburned effect that causes peeled and dropping bark from the trunk, making the tree susceptible to disease and pests. Trunks can be wrapped in burlap or painted with a white latex paint to help protect them Leaving lower branches on the tree in the direction of the afternoon sun may help shade the trunk somewhat.
• Raise your mower deck a notch. As the grass gets longer, the blades will actually help keep the shallow roots shaded.
• A healthy St. Augustine grass or zoysia lawn should be mowed no less than every 10 days in the summer. Bermuda grass is best maintained with weekly mowing or slightly less. Most centipede grass lawns can be mowed every two weeks. Fescue may perform well, in August, if cut every 7-10 days. Fescue requires the most water of the above listed turf grasses.
• Resist fertilizing in August, as it will stress the grass.