It’s now August, and we’ve reached the middle of summer. The heat and humidity challenge us, but there are still plenty of things to do in the garden. Here’s your Mid-summer Garden To-Do List for optimal beauty and function:
CONTINUE HARVESTING: Tomatoes, cucumbers, corn… continue to enjoy the flavors of summer. But as those plants start to peter out…
REPLACE WITH FALL CROPS: August is a great time to sow root crops for fall dinners and winter storage, including beets, carrots, radishes, and turnips. It’s also a perfect time to plant cole crops that prefer cooler weather, such as arugula, lettuce, Asian greens, and mustards.
PRESERVING AND DRYING apples, pears, and all sorts of delicious berries that will be ripening soon. It’s a good time to start planning your canning recipes and preparing your equipment.
REFRESH YOUR CONTAINERS: If your Petunias have gotten a little leggy, or your spring Pansies finally seem tapped out, refresh some or all of the plants in your containers with heat-loving annuals that will bridge nicely into fall decor.
KEEP WATERING: Plants continue to grow both below and above the soil line. Support and ease them with weekly, deeply waterings, especially during weeks with no rain. If you haven’t already, put down mulch or straw to retain moisture. Protect the investment of your spring plantings.
STOP FERTILIZING perennials, shrubs, and trees. Annuals can continue to be fertilized until the end of the season.
CONTINUE TO MAKE COMPOST: Kitchen scraps, grass clippings, and any other seedless organic matter can be tossed in a pile to rot down into that “black gold” we gardeners love so much. In fall, you can spread that beautiful black mixture all over your beds, and let the snow and worms take care of the rest.
MANAGE SEEDS: August marks the peak of seed-saving season. If you would like MORE of the plants you have, then start collecting seeds from the plants you enjoy, and storing them in labeled canisters. If you do NOT want more of those plants, then practice…
DEADHEADING AND SHEARING: Go around to each plant with a sharp, clean pair of pruners, and cut off any spent blooms. This will keep the unwelcome seeds from drying out and spreading around your garden. You can also do a quick shear of spent blooms on bushier plants. Doing so will help the plant look tidy and well groomed, and may even encourage the plant to re-bloom with fresh color.
WEEDING: Weeds are also setting seed now, so be sure to weed carefully. If you can’t tackle all the weeds in your garden right away (who can?), prioritize the ones that are blooming or have formed seed heads.
BE ON ALERT FOR DISEASE AND BUGS: Inspect your plants for any diseased foliage, remove it, and dispose of it properly (do not put it in the compost pile). Summer-time bugs include but are not limited to thrips, tomato fruitworm, tomato hornworm, spider mites, chinch bugs, scale, snails, and slugs.
PLAN FOR FALL-PLANTED BULBS, which are typically sown from mid-September to early November. Find somewhere with good drainage and proper sunlight. You will thank yourself come spring!