What to do in the garden in August

Planning Ahead

  • Use your compost so that you have room in your compost area for all of the debris that will die back in the coming months. Ensure that your compost pile stays moist during this dry month.
  • Prepare final beds for the winter garden 1 – 3 weeks before planting.
  • Check soil moisture.  A good consistency should be like a good snowball.
  • Keep your water features full of water for the birds and beneficial insects
  • Brew compost tea and provide for your garden every 2 weeks.  Compost tea has been shown to prevent blossom end rot, rust, and powdery mildew.
  • You may want to plan your fall plantings around locations that can be covered with a cold frame or cloche.  Try out your designs before it is absolutely necessary to cover.
  • Continue to train your vining plants along their trellises (Grapes, kiwis, blackberries, raspberries, cucumbers, beans, tomatoes, etc).  Proper trellising encourages good air flow.  Good air flow prevents diseases from developing.
  • Watch any weeds for flowering and setting seed.  If you are trying to prevent these plants from growing in abundance in your garden, you will need to pull them before their flowers mature.
  • Continue to mulch to prevent weeds.
  • Watch for slugs and other insect pests on your plants and trees.
  • Protect your plants from deer and other wildlife.
  • Ensure good airflow around your plants to prevent fungal disease.
  • As you clean up your garden in preparation for the fall, don’t get too tidy.  Mulch and woody debris provide the perfect habitat for many beneficial insects to overwinter.

In The Vegetable Garden

  • Early morning is the best time to water.  Water deep and as infrequent as possible.
  • Harvest your vegetables.  Remember to “pick small and pick often” for many of these crops such as zucchini, beans, cucumbers, and your leafys.
  • Harvest leeks before they reach ¾” in diameter.  If you are growing leeks for winter harvest, now is a good time to give them an extra boost with some fertilizer.
  • Continue to sow lettuce and radishes in succession as needed, every two weeks.
  • Start seeds of plants in the cabbage family for the winter garden.  Now is the time for overwintering cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi, rutabegas, mustards, bok choi, and kale.   Between now and the middle of August is the best time to plant these crops as they can develop good root growth before fall equinox.
  • Sow fall vegetables including:  beets, carrots, turnips, spinach, snow peas, chard, scallions, and endive.
  • As your summer squashes, beans, tomatoes, and cucumbers become ripe, remember to pick them small and pick them often to maximize yield.
  • Harvest Arugula, Chervil, and Mache seed.
  • Harvest shallots after the leafy tops have turned brown.
  • Blanch escarole and endive by placing flowerpots over the plants 2 – 3 weeks before harvest.
  • Plant out onion sets for overwintering onions.  The goal is to have these plants be as thick as a pencil come spring.
  • Sow cover crops on beds as they become available.  Some of my favorites are Rye, Austria Field Peas, and Red Clover.
  • If you are growing celeriac, encourage it to bulk out by removing any damaged or older leaves.  These plants love water during the dry season and some fertilizer.
  • Direct sow Cilantro, Chervil, Mache, Miner’s Lettuce, and Cress in the garden.
  • Use willow tea or kelp tea diluted in water 10:1 to prevent your plants from experiencing transplanting shock.
  • Thin seedlings so leaves do not overlap and plants have ample space to grow.
  • Side-dress crops with compost or the appropriate fertilizer
    • Nitrogen for leafy growth (Bloodmeal)
    • Potassium for root growth (Ashes)
    • Phosphorous for flowering or fruiting (Bonemeal)
    • Pick edible flowers.  The more you pick, they more you get.
    • Harvest lettuce often to encourage more growth.  Ensure ample water for your leafys as the weather gets warm to prevent bolting.
    • Continue to mound up your potatoes if they have not died back yet.  Pick off the flowers if you do not want to encourage them to set seed. Once the potato vines die back, they are ready to harvest.
    • Inspect for insect and pest damage.  Check under the leaves of your plants in the Cabbage family for eggs and caterpillars of the Cabbage Looper and Cabbage Moth.
    • Watch for powdery mildew!  Compost the leaves that show the damage and try to encourage better air flow.
    • Save seeds!  Of everything and anything that you can.  Ensure that the seeds are dry upon harvest and store them in a location where they are sure to stay dry.

Fruit Trees and Berry Bushes

  • Harvest!  Try to harvest as soon as the fruit begins to fall for the health of your tree. If you have an insect invasion, this prevents worms from getting into your soil.
  • Harvest your berries!  See putting up the harvest for instructions on preservation.
  • Prune old raspberry and blackberry canes to the ground after harvest.
  • Destroy webworms nests (white webbing on branches of apple, walnut, pear, and other deciduous trees).
  • Pick up diseased or spoilt fruit daily from the ground.
  • Give support to heavy branches on your fruit trees.
  • Cut back Comfrey and other dynamic accumulators for mulch.
  • Provide soft mulch under your fruit trees to provide a soft surface for fruit that may fall.
  • Protect your plants from deer and other wildlife
  • Mulch to maximize water holding capacity of your landscape, especially your blueberries and raspberries
  • Water deeply as needed (ample water encourages good juicy fruit production)
  • Set out any scare tactics to prevent birds from eating your berries.
  • Inspect for insect and disease damage.
  • Watch for powdery mildew!  Compost the leaves that show the damage and try to encourage better air flow.
  • It’s time for summer bud grafting.

Perennials

  • Plant Saffron Crocus bulbs in the garden.
  • Harvest herbs before the buds open on the flowers.
  • Save seeds!  Of everything and anything that you can.
  • Cut back flowers to encourage more blooms.
  • Fertilize your container plants about every other week.
  • Label the locations of your bulbs for dividing in the fall.  You can also divide or move spring flowering bulbs once their foliage has died back.
  • Divide Irises after they have finished blooming.
  • Prune woody plants after they are done blooming.
  • Make tip cuttings from daphne, azaleas, fuchsias, hydrangeas, camellias, and wisteria.

Putting up the Harvest

  • To freeze berries, simply place on a baking sheet in the freezer.  Once frozen, pack into plastic bags.  This makes them easier to remove for use and preserves their shape.
  • To freeze apples for apple pie, cut the apples and toss in sugar with cinnamon & nutmeg.  Freeze on a baking sheet first to allow ease with thawing the amount of fruit you need for a pie.  This can be done similarly with other fruit for pies.
  • Freeze your peppers by blanching them first in boiling water.  Transfer the peppers to a bowl of ice water for 5 minutes.  Peel off the skins and pack in freezer bags.
  • Harvest medicinal leaves & flowers and dry for tea.  Leaves and flowers are preserved best by drying them at 85 degrees F.  Roots and Fruits are best dried at 135 degrees F.  Ensure that they are completely dry before storing.
  • If you have an oven that can be set to a low temperature or has a pilot light, you can try using your oven as a dehydrator for fruit and herbs.  The same temperature guidelines would be relevant.
  • Many herbs can be preserved in olive oils or vinegars. If you preserve herbs in oil, make sure you remove the plant material after no longer than 2 weeks to prevent bacterial growth.
  • Summer cabbage can be made into sauerkraut.   Harvest cabbage just before the head splits.
  • Lots of veggies can be fermented as well.
  • You can dry vegetables in your dehydrator or in the oven on a very low temperature for meals in the winter.
  • Fruit can be preserved as jam, cordials, or vinegar.
  • A good resource on preserving the harvest is the book called Stocking Up.
  • Let me know if you have any recipes you would like to share!