August would be a good month to skip in the garden if it weren’t for the harvest and the dahlias. Heat, weeds, bugs, voles, rabbits, and more heat. And, if the dahlias popping out everywhere make you wish you had them in your garden, read here. Remember, dahlias are a summer bulb planted in mid-April (along with the gladiolas). If you forgot them this year, make a note on your garden calendar to pick them up in February. They’ll be in the store by then.

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.

Dahlias start blooming in earnest now, but the Japanese beetles chewed most of the leaves off mine. Hand-picking Japanese beetles and dropping them into a bucket of soapy water is the easiest and most effective way to rid yourself of them, and if you aren’t squeamish, rather satisfying.

1. 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 bugs, 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, brown and mushy, and are easily pulled off, with mustard sized seeds at the petiole base. Remove these diseased leaves, remove the soil surrounding it 8″ out, and replace it 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.
  • 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.
Not Now: Stop with Fertilizing and Wait to Prune
  • 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. Wait for plants to go dormant.
  • Do continue, as mentioned above, to prune out the dead, diseased, and dying wood and leaves.
  • Do continue to fertilize your annuals, fall perennials, and fall vegetables.

2. Lawn Care

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.

3. Reap the Rewards and Plant Fall Vegetables

Plant beets, lettuce, mustard, turnips, radish, spinach, squash and kale for fall now and start to harvest your summer veggies. Don’t know when to pick? Here’s the tips. 
  • 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 the food that keeps on giving. Potatoes are ready when the skin isn’t thin and transparent. 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, you may have new potatoes before temperatures drop.
For excellent information on planting, maintaining, and harvesting vegetables bookmark this page from Cornell University.

Cinthia Milner is a Landscape Consultant and blog writer for B. B. Barns Garden Center. 

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