If your garden is near the shore, use the seaweed washed ashore from stormy weather in both the garden and compost piles. Otherwise, August is a good time to spread a thin layer of compost around your plants to give them a final boost. The many extra hours of daylight are pushing them to produce before the first cold weather at the end of the month and they are working really hard. This is prime harvest month. Enjoy berry picking with friends.
VEGETABLES AND FRUIT:
• Harvest, eat, freeze, can, dehydrate and pickle everything you can right now. The fond memory of your garden’s bounty will help carry you through the winter, but a jar of crispy pickles will work even better.
• Cut off the top six inches of your tomato plants and pinch off the blossoms around the first weekend of August, to force the remaining fruit into ripening.
• Harvest a few thin leeks and toss into salads.
• By the end of the month, start digging up your root vegetables (carrots, turnips, beets, potatoes). Some may remain in the ground for later harvest, but add straw mulch to keep them from drying out.
• Blueberries may be the most popular of more than a dozen species of edible wild berries that are ripe now and ready to be picked. Packed with antioxidants, they have been referred to as ‘Alaska’s Brain Food.’
• Crowberries and low-bush cranberries often grow alongside blueberries. The former can fill out a bucket of blueberries. The latter are best picked after the season’s first frost.
• Four species of currants, high-bush cranberries and rose hips coexist among birch, aspen, spruce or hemlocks. Currants grow on bushes with leaves like those found on maples. High-bush cranberry leaves are more rounded. Rose hips, or wild rose fruit, grow on thorny bushes.
• Use caution when searching out woodland berries. Pick with friends and wear a bear bell.
• To keep your berries from molding, give them a short, warm to hot bath (water temps between 120 -140 degrees F). Then air dry your berries. This process is called ‘thermography.’
• Photograph your garden early in August. If there are areas that did not work for you this growing season, plan changes for next year.
• Find your seed catalogs, and start dreaming. Plan to order seeds.
• Deadhead and continue weeding. Getting rid of those weeds today will make for less work next year.
• Bring your hanging baskets inside so you can further enjoy them.
• Alpine plants, such as fireweed, dwarf dogwood, and forget-me-nots, will survive in the non-mountainous areas of zones 1 & 2 if you keep their soil lean (not rich or high in nitrogen) and give them underground rocks to hold on to. To improve drainage, add amendments like coarse sand, expanded shale or even gravel to the plot. Rich soil makes many alpines fat and happy during the summer, but then they don’t develop the toughness they need to survive the winter. Neglect them for success.
• Remember to check the soil PH for your peonies. They prefer a PH of 6, which is on the basic side. If your soil registers higher in acid than that, work some garden lime into the soil. You’ll see a healthier plant with more blooms next spring.
• Begin cutting back the foliage of your perennials at the end of August.
• Many gardeners in Zones 1 & 2, treat their rose bushes as annuals. If grown on their own root stock rather than on grafts, they may be able to survive the winter. Or you can pot up the rose bushes and bring them into the garage or basement for the winter. Better yet, plant them in the ground still in their pots to make bringing them in easier. If you have a window with a southern exposure, that would be helpful. Take them back out after the danger of frost has passed in the spring.
• If you are leaving your roses in the ground, consider doing a hard pruning before the end of the month. They will have a chance to harden before the frost. Also add an extra 6 inches of mulch before frost.
• An increased interest in old-fashioned roses is reflected in the modern shrub roses. Those with the most promising hardiness include the Morden and Explorer series from Canada and some of the Kordes roses from Germany.
• Provide supplemental watering for your fruit trees if July’s rains have been light in your area.
• Severe weather is a fact of life in Zones 1 & 2 with ice-related damage causing a major impediment to maintaining healthy trees. Many of us have an emotional attachment to our large trees. Seek professional advice to assess if a tree is hazardous. Will it pose a threat to people, animals or property in the event of an additional strong wind? Is the tree’s present condition leaving it vulnerable to pests or disease? If the tree is beyond saving, hire a professional, insured / bonded tree service for large tree removal.
• Water this month if your area has had little rain. If you are reseeding, try using native grasses to gradually take over your lawn. They have had thousands of years to adapt to the weather conditions in the zone and are more likely to survive.