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Garden Tasks for August

Grow great vegetables and beautiful blooms with this gardener's to-do list for August.

Summer Vegetable GardenIt’s August! Your vegetable garden is really asserting itself, your flower beds are still full of color, and your lawn, like the dog, is ready to take a nap. There’s nothing to do at this point but enjoy it, right?

Of course not. Gardens may move more slowly in August and immediate gardening tasks, like watering and weeding, may be all you think you really need to do. But smart gardeners know August isn’t a stand down month. It’s a stand and watch month, time to keep your senses alert for weeds that need to be pulled, pests that need to be stopped, and plants that need care — or even planting — to protect their longtime well-being and provide you with winter crops. Winter crops? Yes, you know; stuff like root vegetables and hardy greens you’ll be digging out from under the mulch long after the first frost.

Okay, here’s something we did in August back in our old zone 4 days. We’re sure you can add to the list of gardening tips, especially those August things required in your growing zone and location.

Whether pickling, making jam or putting up fresh garden produce, we have the canning supplies you’ll need — jars, caps, lids, pickling spice — to keep the harvest through the winter and beyond.

Did we say stay alert? Even as you’re harvesting beans and summer squash, stay vigilant. Don’t let weeds make an inroad and especially don’t let them go to seed. Explore your garden carefully every few days. We especially enjoy doing this when hand watering those plants that might need more moisture than others. Or, if our garden is small enough, when we’re hand watering the whole thing. Destroy any pests you find. Finding aphids? Hit them with a soap liquid or … unleash the hounds!

Cute story… or at least we thought it was cute. Our young gardening helper saw us pulling up our pea vines one summer. “Wait,” she said. “Those are peas!” We were happy to see she could identify the plants — after all, she helped with the harvest — but we could see she’d grown too attached. “But they’re through making peas,” we tried to explain. “You mean they’ve turned into weeds?”

See, we told you it was cute. But she’s right. Peas and other vegetables that have produced their harvest or are going to seed should be pulled. They’re not only taking up room but continuing to drain moisture and nutrients from your soil. Compost them. Or, if by the small chance they’re diseased or otherwise infected with pests, destroy them by burning (where legal), burying or simply stuffing in the trash. In their place, plant spinach, kale, chard, or other light frost -tolerant plants and be prepared to mulch them heavily once frost is in the air. Beets, turnips and rutabagas are also good choices. Imagine serving fresh beets at Thanksgiving! And even if they’re not ready by then, they’ll give you early greens — or at least the beets and turnips will — come spring.

More practical tips: Make sure tomatoes are well supported for the onslaught of heavy fruit to come. Gently (gently!) reposition squash and pumpkins so that they can best grow to their full potential. Now’s a good time to harvest herbs before they flower to be dried in a place (preferably out of the sun) for use in the fall and winter.

Turn your compost heap. Have finished compost? Spread it around.

Lawn turning brown? It’s not dying, its sleeping (see dog above). Sure, you can pour water to it and green it up. But your monthly water bill or your local water use regulations might discourage this. Like a sleeping dog, let it lie! And if you live in a moist environment and it is still growing, raise the height of your mower so your grass doesn’t suffer burn if things do get hot and dry.

Flower beds? Deadhead those flowers to keep the blooms coming. Geraniums? You don’t have to wait until fall for root cuttings to bring indoors. Irises and poppies? Dig up and divide roots now. This is also a good time to prune shrubs and hedges as well as pine and fir trees.

One last thing to remember. Yes, we’ve given you a long list of things to do. And we suspect you already knew most, if not all of them. What other chores take up your August gardening time? Just remember: you have all month to do them.

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