As the heat of August produces an abundance of blooms, prune back or “deadhead” the fading and spent flowers. There’s still time left to enjoy a second show of blooms. Deadheading helps reduce the spread of diseases and the invasion of insect pests. Deadheading not only refreshes the plant’s appearance, it also controls seed development and 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 start to acclimatize.
• Pull annuals that are past their prime and aren’t likely to recover. Cover bare soil to deter weeds. Keep deadheading hardy annuals to assure bloom right up to frost.
• 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.
• Divide and transplant peonies in late August through September, if needed.The “eyes” must not be buried more than an inch or two beneath the soil surface.
• Dig and divide daylilies and bearded iris if you haven’t already done so.
• Pick zucchini when fruits are 4 to 8 inches long—you’ll get twice as many.
• Spray water on the top and undersides of zucchini foliage, early in the mornings, to control spider mites and aphids.
• After mid-month, pinch off new tomato flowers to direct energy to ripening fruit before frost.
• Water tomatoes in the morning so the foliage will be dry at night. Mulch around the plant to reduce splashing onto stems and leaves.
• At month’s end, sow spinach in a cold-frame for spring harvest.
• Pinch off blossoms on pumpkin and winter squash vines so the plants direct their energy into the existing fruits on the vines.
• Let your last planting of annual herbs such as dill, cilantro, caraway, and chervil go to seed for a new crop of plants to harvest early next season.
• If dead wood is visible on trees and shrubs, prune it out at your earliest convenience. Leaving it around will attract borers and other critters.
• Water trees during drought. A Tree-Gator is a good choice for a deep, thorough watering.
• Refrain from feeding your roses again to let them slow their growth and start to harden up for the winter ahead.
• Remove only a half-inch of the leaf blades per mowing to avoid stressing the lawn.
• Hand pull weeds when the soil is moist to prevent seeds from developing. Do not compost weeds with seed heads, since most composting methods will not heat up enough to kill the seeds.
• Core aeration is the best way to control thatch. As weather cools down, use an aeration machine that removes soil cores and breaks through the thatch layers.