If you are not going on vacation in August take heart. I think August has to be one of the best months in the home garden. Not only are the perennials flowering like gangbusters but the variety of fruits and vegetables that are in season this month is spectacular. But for those of you without the space or inclination to grow your own I encourage you to visit your local Farmer’s Market, Pick-your-own or join a farmer’s co-op. A day spent out walking the farmer’s market or in the fields of a pick-your-own is like a vacation back in time to a bygone era when people ate food that came from within miles of their homes.
- Cut back artemisias before they flower. The flowers are not particularly noteworthy and the plants can become leggy and flop when they do. Cut back 1/2 to 2/3 of top growth. Cuttings can be rooted with rooting hormone and placed in damp perlite or coarse sand. Place in a spot with indirect sunlight for first month or two until the roots begin to form.
- Root cuttings of geraniums (Pelargonium) to bring indoors for the winter. This is particularly useful when the plants have gotten too large for the space you have indoors. Cuttings should be about 6 inches long stripping off all but the top 4 leaves. Treat cuttings as artemisias above.
- Divide Oriental poppy. Oriental poppies do not take well to division at other times of the year. After they finish blooming they are quasi-dormant. You can also take root cuttings to propagate new plants as well.
- Divide Iris. This is a good time particularly for bulbous Iris as they are now dormant. Fibrous rooted as well as rhizomatous Iris can also be divided now. Wait until fall or spring to divide Siberian Iris.
- Fertilize roses. Roses are heavy feeders and usually require both a spring and summer feeding. Now is a good time as later feedings may encourage soft growth late in the season that can be damaged by a cold snap. A top choice of many rose growers is alfalfa meal. It is usually available where organic fertilizers are sold. If you need large economical quantities buy alfalfa pellets from a animal feed store (without vitamins). Scratch the meal or pellets into the top 2 inches of soil around the root zone of the roses. I also like to use both organic fish fertilizer as well as kelp fertilizer since they compliment each other quite well providing balanced plant nutrition.
- Order bulbs for fall planting now! You can often get early bird specials when ordering bulbs through the mail. You can often find a wider selection of varieties through mail order than you can locally. Bulbs are delivered at the optimal time for planting in the fall.
- Continue deadheading spent flowers unless you plan on saving seeds.
- Prune firs and spruces now. Unlike other evergreen trees these form buds on outside of branches rather than at the tip.
- Last time to trim deciduous hedges for the season. Their growth will be slow until next spring.
- Root hardwood cuttings of shrubs.
- Prune water sprouts, trunk suckers, and crossing or rubbing branches from trees.
- Conserve water by letting grass go dormant. Lack of water and higher temperatures will trigger dormancy. Grass will begin to grow again when you water increases and temperatures cool. Don’t do this on high traffic areas as they will wear more easily.
- Repot cacti and other succulents and other indoor plants into larger containers. If the containers are as big as you want then remove the top two inches of soil and replace with new potting soil. A good cacti potting mix can me made using ½ perlite ¼ coco peat and ¼ earthworm castings or compost.
- Check pots more frequently for drying and fertilize plants.
Vegetables, Herbs & Fruit
- Plant seeds of bush beans and beets no later than the beginning of the month to get a crop by fall. Also continue successive plantings of peas and radishes.
- Harvest many vegetables when they are small and tender like beans, eggplants, squash, and cucumbers.
- Harvest corn, melons, garlic, onions, shallots, tomatoes beets and new potatoes (leave alone until fall for larger potatoes).
- Plant annuals ,quick growing herbs, as well as greens can such as cilantro, Swiss chard, bunching onions, lettuce, spinach, Mustard and oriental greens, as well as radicchio, endive and other chicories.
- When berries of brambles (raspberries, blackberries and their relatives) finish fruiting cut them back to the ground as they are finished and will die soon. Evergreen varieties fruiting canes should be cut back by half or just below where the late summer flowers and fruit formed.
- Transplant into the garden seedlings started last month for fall crops like cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and other cole crops.
- Move rooted strawberry runners that have rooted to inappropriate locations in the garden. Or pot them up and give them to a friend to grow.
- Harvest herbs for drying. Herbs are often at their peak for drying when they begin to flower. Dry in bunches or preferably in thin layers on screens. Keep out of the sun when drying. A well ventilated attic or shed works well.