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Summertime, and the livin’ is easy — at least it can be for gardeners.
Aside from tasting, weeding and watering, essential gardening tasks are at a lull in August.
Never fear, gardening addicts: There’s always something to tend for those who are determined. But go easy on yourself and take advantage of the occasional cool day to work in comfort. (Bing: Build an outdoor shower)
August is a relatively low-maintenance month for flowers, but regular watering isn’t the only task that will keep your garden in top shape.
Keep deadheading flowers as they fade; not only will the plants look better, but if they’re allowed to produce and shed their seeds, they’re more likely to stop producing new blooms.
In areas with mild winters and longer growing seasons, annuals should have another feeding of fertilizer in late summer.
- Along with the tips below, water perennials weekly and deeply.
- To check on water levels, trowel into the soil and look for moisture to a depth of three or four inches, or deep enough to ensure that water is reaching roots.
- Deadhead spent blooms before they have a chance to seed.
- Dahlias are probably getting leggy right about now; if so, support them with stakes.
- Iris and other early-blooming perennials can still be divided this month and even into September. Choose a cool day or time of day, and give them a tall drink of water in their new locations.
- If you’re gardening in a mild climate, fertilize roses once again this month.
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- Because August is usually the hottest month of the year, watering is a top priority in lawn care.
- Water deeply once a week (more often during scorching dry spells) for an hour at a shot.
- Raise the cutting height on your mower to keep grass longer, conserving water and helping roots stay cool.
- If water is scarce, consider letting your lawn go dormant, and reduce watering to once a month. It may look a little scrappy, but that glowing green hue will return with fall rains.
- Wildflower seeds tend to be ripe by late summer, so if you have a meadow to mow, this is a good month to hop on the tractor.
April may be the “cruelest month,” but for gardens August is worse if the weather is hot. Even in mild climates, a single heat wave can put the kibosh on your garden if it doesn’t receive enough water.
- Water evaporates quickly on sunny days, so water early in the morning to give plants a head start.
- Make a frequent check of flowers and vegetables for their watering needs. Generally, you’ll want to give them about an inch of water each week; deep, less frequent watering is better for them than frequent surface watering.
- Add a light layer of mulch around young plants to help their roots retain water.
- If you’re keeping a green lawn, give it an inch of water once a week or slightly more often.
- Check hanging baskets and container plants every day in hot weather.
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Here are a few tips for extending your growing season:
- Early in the month, plant seeds in the ground for fall and winter vegetables such as spinach, radishes, scallions, carrots and lettuces.
- There’s still time to transplant greens such as kale and collards, broccoli, cauliflower and early cabbage.
- Container plants, including perennials, trees and shrubs, can be put in the ground now.
- Plant crocus bulbs for delicate splashes of fall color.
- Order fall bulbs for planting.
Keep up the battle against slugs and aphids.
- Slugs will tend to be more abundant now due to extra watering; plant saucers of stale beer around the garden, especially around mulched areas (a favorite slug hiding place) and near tender greens.
- At first notice of aphids, hose-blast them off of leaves or spray them with an insecticidal soap.
Extra watering and hot weather make August a red-letter month for weeds. Expect weeds to germinate and drop their seeds faster; pull them out as soon as they pop up.
Pruning and grooming
- Shrubs and trees are approaching dormancy and should not be pruned except in mild climates. In colder climes, they may not have time to harden off before the cold weather sets in.
- Prune hybrid roses late in the month.
- Cut back lavender once it has finished flowering.
- Pinch back tomato plants for a higher yield.
- Prune raspberries after the last harvest: Cut out old flowering canes, leaving shoot tips and three or four younger canes per foot of raspberry row.
- To avoid giving pests a free lunch, pick fruits and vegetables as soon as they’re ripe.
- It’s apple-pickin’ time! Early apples should be ready to pick this month.
- Garlic and onions can generally be harvested now; pick them when you notice their dry tops beginning to fall over, and let them air-dry.
- Harvest raspberries, which should be producing the last of their fruit this month.
- Tomatoes and melons should be harvested as soon as they’re ripe, before pests have a chance to dig in.
- Houseplants will need to be watered more often this month, especially if they’re in a sunny window.
- Before you head out for your Lake Minnehaha vacation, move plants out of direct sunlight, especially those in south-facing windows.
- Check the undersides of leaves for aphid clusters and send them to their doom with an appropriate insecticide.
- Flowering houseplants should be pruned after flowers fade; make cuts directly above leaf joints.
- Be especially vigilant about ventilation and watering needs in the greenhouse this month.
- Take cuttings of geraniums.
- Give tomatoes plenty of water and food.