August in The Garden – The Not So Lazy Days of Summer

As all gardener’s know, August is a busy time in the garden.  Annuals and perennials are in full flower display and vegetable gardens are bursting at the seams with goodness. There is no end to the work that has to be done; pickling, canning, freezing, jam and jelly making.    If you have any time to spare this is also a great time to take pictures of your garden.  You can use the pictures to plan where some of those fall bulbs will go!  To follow is a to-do list for the month of August.  If August 2021 is as hot as July, the first thing on your list will be to keep up that great watering job you have been doing the entire season.  Check containers, pots and hanging baskets daily.  Ok; twice a day……

Pay special watering attention to tomatoes and corn.  Water corn regularly and feed with an all - purpose tomato and vegetable fertilizer once a month. Corn is a heavy feeder so you can also side dress the corn rows with compost.   Apply the same vegetable/tomato fertilizer once fruit starts to form on peppers, cucumbers and eggplants. 

Watering also means watering the lawn.  One inch a week is enough.  If possible, water your lawn in the morning.  Evergreens and deciduous trees and shrubs will need deep watering once every week to ten days.  This is especially important for any new trees and shrubs you planted in the spring. 

If you hand water, this is a great time to deadhead and weed as well. Keep an eye out for pests.   Unfortunately, you can never let up on the weeding!

Raise the blade height on your lawn mower. This leaves the grass a little bit longer but keeps the water from evaporating too quickly and you will have a happier lawn.  If your lawn has experienced browning, it may be due to pests, but the heat this summer may also have caused it to go dormant.  Grass going dormant is a self-preservation measure to help the grass withstand weather changes such as excessive heat.   The good news is that you can revive a dormant lawn by regularly watering your lawn once or twice a week for three to four weeks.

Prune and remove dead wood on trees and shrubs.  Do not prune live wood past the fifteenth of August.  Trees and shrubs will only produce new growth that will not harden off in time for winter.

Note the pruning ban for Elm trees in Saskatchewan is April 1 to August 31.  Birch and Maple should also only be pruned in late summer or early autumn.

August 15 is also the time to stop fertilizing trees, shrubs, roses, and perennials.

I keep fertilizing my annuals well into September if weather allows.  In the last few years September has been a beautiful month so why not keep the show going?   You will be surprised how long some of your annuals will continue flowering.

Keep deadheading annuals and perennials, especially the fall bloomers.

Cut back your herbs at the beginning of August.  You can use the cuttings fresh or dry and freeze them for the winter ahead.   This will give them time to put on a new flush of growth to harvest later in fall.  Herbs are at their peak in late summer.  Harvest in the early morning after the dew dries to catch the best flavor. 

You can still repot houseplants in early August.  If roots are coming out of a pot’s drainage holes it is time to repot that plant into a size larger pot.  Do not fertilize houseplants after August 15. 

Early blooming perennials that have finished should be tidied up and cut back.  

Remember to turn your compost.  Add non-diseased plant material such as peas that have finished for the season.  Or till the peas into the soil right where they grew.  Legumes give the soil a much - needed nitrogen boost to start off the next season.    Add well-aged compost to those bare spots in the vegetable garden or perennial beds.  Compost provides the soil with nutrients and really is the best mulch.

Give your zonal geraniums a bit of a haircut in early August.  They will grow new foliage and produce more flowers.   When the time comes you can winter them over inside!

If you choose to plant trees, shrubs and perennials in August this is fine if you pay attention to watering.  The upper growth may droop or flag for awhile but will bounce back once new roots begin to grow.  Do not expect any upper growth – it is more important that the plant has new root formation before winter.  Avoid planting on extremely hot days.  Early morning or evening is best.  Mulch around the new plant with compost.  Do not let the compost touch the bark of the trees and shrubs or the crowns of the perennials.

Harvest your vegetable and berry gardens regularly.  Keep an eye out for pests and weeds as you harvest. 

Scarlet Runner Beans benefit from keeping their tips pinched out once they reach the top of the trellis.  This encourages more side shoots to form and consequently more beans.  Remove any mature seed pods as they will reduce flower production. 

Keep up the garden journal; record what worked, what did not work, daily weather and the first frost date of the fall season.

Freshen up your flowering containers in preparation for fall.  You can remove some of the tired dead annuals and replace them with some new soil and fresh fall bloomers such as chrysanthemum, asters, pansies, flowering cabbage and kale and dusty miller.    Other perennials that add fall color to your garden are rudbeckia, upright sedums such as Autumn Joy or Brilliant, heliopsis, black-eyed susan and groundcover sedum such as Dragon’s Blood.  Fall blooming annuals include cosmos, sunflowers, dianthus, amaranthus, celosia and some late blooming dahlias.  Bare spots in your perennial beds can be filled with large containers of chrysanthemums that are sold in bud or bloom.

FYI:    August Birth Flower – Gladiolus (Sword Lilies) – gladioli signify remembrance. 

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