August Chores: Here Come the Dahlias

If it weren't for the harvest, August would be a good month to skip in the garden. Heat, weeds, bugs, voles, rabbits and this year, flooding.  My backyard is on it's third flood. Which reminds me that I need to get landscape to check out my drainage. If you're discovering drainage issues from all this rain too, read here and here.  And if the dahlias popping out everywhere makes you wish you had them in your garden, read here. Remember, they're a summer bulb, planted in mid-April (along with the gladiolas). This year, enjoy them in your neighbor's yard or go to a dahlia farm and cut your own to enjoy, but make a mental note to buy the tubers before April to plant in your garden next year. They'll be in the store by February.

Dahlias starts blooming in earnest now, but the Japanese beetles chewed most of the leaves off mine. Hand picking them was the most effective treatment, and now cleaning up the leaves so the blooms can shine.

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. 

Lawn Care

In case you wondered what grubs look like. 

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

 Peppers are more flavorful when they mature on the vine, but you risk having less, as they produce more when picked.

Peppers are more flavorful when they mature on the vine, but you risk having less, as they produce more when picked.

Plant beets, lettuce, mustard, turnips, radish, spinach, squash and kale for fall now.

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. 

Pickle Everything

The okra flower.

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!

print recipe
PIckled Okra
Another way to disguise slimy okra
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 lbs okra
  • 3 hot peppers
  • 1 garlic
  • 3 tsp. dill seed
  • 2 tbsp. salt
  • 1 c. vinegar
  • 2 c. water
Instructions
Put a small piece of garlic and one pepper in each pint-sized jar. Pack okra into jar leaving a small piece of the stem. Sprinkle 1 tsp. of dill seed over the okra.Combine vinegar, water, and salt together in a pot and bring to a boil. Pour equally into each jar. Seal in a hot water bath for ten minutes. Refrigerate after opening.
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 3 pints

One last dahlia to enjoy. Good for cut flowers. 

Cinthia Milner works as the garden coach and blog writer.

BB Barns Garden Center serves all of Western North Carolina, upstate South Carolina, and Tennessee.