If it weren't for the harvest, August would be a good month to skip. Heat, weeds, bugs, voles, rabbits and more watering. No, afternoon thundershowers don't count. Why? Because the garden needs an inch of water a week, consistently. Afternoon thunderstorms are more storm water run-off than rain that seeps into a dry soil. So, continue watering new plantings, your vegetable gardens, and don't forget your containers.
get a jump on Fall
Now is the time to start tidying up where you can, which helps fall clean-up go faster. A few things to do now.
- Be sure to check your cabbages, broccoli, and cauliflower for worms, and squash for borers.
- Treat the lawn for grubs now. A little bit of prevention goes a long way.
- For shrubs, trees, and perennials, prune out the diseased, dying and already dead stems.
- Remove yellowing or floppy leaves on your shrubs and perennials.
- Double check conifers for spider mites, and azaleas and rhododendrons for lace bug, pruning out the damaged wood as you go.
- Hostas tend to turn yellow now, and that can either be from scorch (too much sun and heat) or a fungal disease, petiole rot. With petiole rot, the leaves turn yellow, then brown and mushy, and are easily pulled off, with mustard sized seeds at the base of the petiole. Remove these diseased leaves and remove the soil surrounding it 8" out and replace with new soil.
- Many of your Japanese maples are getting crispy leaves, or tip burn, now from the hot August sun. Don't stress over this, they'll be fine. They are sensitive to the heat and scorching sun.
- FYI: here's a great book on beneficial predatory insects, and here's a list of plants that invite them to your garden from the Permaculture Research Institute. Consider adding these plants to next year's garden.
No fertilizer & no pruning
- No more fertilizing or pruning of shrubs, or trees. This pushes out new growth that doesn't have time to harden off before cold weather arrives.
- Do continue, as mentioned above, to prune out the dead, diseased and dying wood and leaves.
- Do continue to continue fertilize your annuals, fall perennials and fall vegetables.
Mid-August to mid-September is the last big push for your lawn till spring.
- Reseed where necessary.
- Fertilize with a good layer of compost (1").
- Mow less, but leave the grass clippings behind (this provides nitrogen for the soil).
- Treat the lawn for grubs. Use Milky Spore now, which can be used in all types of weather, but do not mow until the spore has been watered into the soil a good 15 minutes or longer.
- Look in our newsletters for a September seminars on lawn care and fall cleanup for more information.
Harvest Time and Fall Vegetables
Now is the time to plant beets, lettuce, mustard, turnips, radish, spinach, squash and kale for fall.
It's also the time to start harvesting tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, peppers and more, if you aren't already. How do you know when to pick?
- Tomatoes can be picked while green and allowed to ripen on your kitchen counter, but their flavor is better the longer they stay on the vine. Don't refrigerate, keep at room temperature.
- Cucumbers are best picked young. Too big and their flavor becomes bland and the seeds are too big. Pick at about 6-8".
- Peppers are more flavorful the longer they remain on the vine. Use your snippers to cut them off, don't pull. It's easy to pull up the whole plant.
- Beans can be picked anytime, but keep on picking for a longer harvest.
- Melons need more time to ripen. They should pull easily from the vine and smell ripe.
- Potatoes are ready when the skin isn't thin and transparent. Potatoes are the food that keeps on giving. Pull up an entire plant, dust off the potatoes for eating and replant the plant. You'll get more potatoes. If you do this now, it's possible you'll have new potatoes before temperatures drop.
For excellent information on planting, maintaining, and harvesting vegetables check out this page from Cornell University.
Lastly, if you're running out of ideas of what to do with all that harvest, how about pickling it? Below is a recipe for pickled okra, stolen from about everyone and reused so many times, no one remembers who the original belonged too. You'll need pint sized pickling jars. Enjoy the harvest!
- 1 1/2 lbs okra
- 3 hot peppers
- 1 garlic
- 3 tsp. dill seed
- 2 tbsp. salt
- 1 c. vinegar
- 2 c. water
Cinthia Milner works as the garden coach, in outside sales, and blog writer for BB Barns Garden Center.
BB Barns Garden Center serves all of Western North Carolina, upstate South Carolina, and Tennessee.