August includes a mixed bag of gardening tasks and weather. The weather can often be milder than we expect and it’s a great time to perk things up in the garden after July’s extremes in temperature and this season's precipitation. These gardening tasks will keep flower and vegetable gardens growing longer.
Flowering plants should be deadheaded on a regular basis for continual bloom. Grooming will make a big difference in the overall appearance of the garden. Deadheading prevents plants from producing seed. When a plant switches to seed production, it will stop blooming.
There are a few annual flowers like cosmos, pansies, cleome that can be allowed to self-seed throughout the garden. Unwanted seedlings are easily removed in the spring.
Vegetables should be harvested often while young and tender. Cucumber, green beans and zucchini should be harvested daily for best flavor and texture. Eggplant, pepper and tomato flavor and vitamin content are best when fruit ripens on the plant.
Most herbs have more concentrated flavor when harvested before flowering. Frequent harvesting prevents flowering. Harvesting of herbs is like pruning and will keep the plants growing longer. Use fresh and dry or freeze excess for winter.
Cut back foliage of early bloomers like hardy geranium, soapwort, and catmint to revitalize plants. These plants often look tired; pruning will encourage new growth and possibly a second bloom.
Trim and continue to feed hanging baskets to prolong beauty. These plants have been blooming all season and need the continued feeding.
Start saving seed and taking cuttings. Choose the best performers. Heirloom or open-pollinated varieties are the best for saving seed. Seed from hybrids will not breed true next season.
Remove diseased foliage and dispose of it in the garbage. Foliage should only be put in a hot compost to ensure disease spores will be killed.
Begin dividing spring blooming perennials. Divisions need time to set roots before the ground freezes. Divide plants during the coolest part of the day. Spring blooming flowers to be divided include iris, peony and bleeding heart. August is also a good time to divide rhubarb. Since the divisions have a limited root system keep watered until the ground freezes.
We have had plenty of rain this season, but often watering can be a big task when the weather gets hot. If watering is necessary, water thoroughly and deeply. Plants in the garden need about 1 inch of water weekly to stay green and healthy. Water early in the day so the foliage is dry going into the evening hours. Plants in hanging baskets and containers will need to be watered more often.
Continue pulling weeds before going to seed. Weed seed continues to germinate for years. Weeds rob plants of water and nutrients, harbor insects and disease, and shade plants.
Consider spreading a layer of compost. The plants and soil will appreciate the boost.
Don’t forget to take pictures and notes for next season and, most importantly, relax and enjoy the garden!