Garden Activities for August

by Isabel Vinton

August is a month of bountiful harvests for the kitchen table, and for your seed collections! But it's also a month of shortening days, an unavoidable reminder of autumn and the end of the growing season. It is the last chance for diverse sowing opportunities. Some crops such as garlic, cover crops and flower bulbs are happy to wait a couple months before being sown, but most other edibles need to be planted soon so they can race the dwindling sunlight hours and mature before cold sets in. Here are a few garden tasks we are keeping in mind this month:

1. Sow What Now. August is a great time to sow root crops for fall feasts and winter storage, including beetscarrotsradishes, and turnips. It’s also a perfect time to return to the diversity of greens that prefer cooler weather, such as arugulalettuceAsian greens and mustards. Many greens can be sown successively throughout the month, and a new sowing of chard and kale will keep them in your harvest basket through the fall. For more end of summer sowing opportunities, take a look at Doug’s Summer’s Final Sowings Chart

Cover crops are also important to add to your sowing calendar this month. As more beds open up as we move closer to fall, sow cover crops to protect bare ground and restore nutrient balance in the soil. Take a look a our blog next week for an overview of cover crop options for home gardeners.

Garlic can be sown from late August to October, but if you’ve harvested your own recently, save a few of the best heads to replant for next year’s crop.

Fall-planted flower bulbs are typically sown from mid-September to early November. Find somewhere with good drainage, proper sunlight and take some care for pests. This year marks our biggest selection ever of bulbs so take a look--you will thank yourself come spring!

2. Seed Saving. August marks the peak of seed-saving season. Many seed crops will be ripening at once now, so if you plan on saving your own seeds this year, now is the time to set up a cleaning and drying area and brush up on your seed-collecting knowledge. See our seed saving resources and materials for guidance.

3. Weeding. Cultivated crops aren’t the only ones setting seed now. Many weeds are getting ready to sow a new generation of weeds for next year. If you cannot tackle all the weeds in your garden right away (who can?), prioritize the ones that are blooming or have formed seed-heads. If you do make time for regular weed maintenance, clean up beds with freshly sown seeds or new transplants first. New plantings are much more affected by weeds stealing moisture and nutrients from them than older, established crops.

4. Watering. August can often be dry month, which is great for seed saving, but tough on crops that are for eating. Young transplants and new sowings require consistent moisture attention to develop into strong plants, while older plants are more drought tolerant.

5. Pests and Disease. This is the time of year when Japanese beetles activate in some areas. We once walked by a locust tree which we thought was full of berries – upon closer examination, we saw that the tree was actually draped in Japanese beetles. To learn more about their life-cycle and organic control methods, take a look at our Bug Profile on them. Disease is common this month, especially among older plants that are nearing the end of their life. Take a look at our Disease Diagnostic article for tips on how to proceed.

6. Preserving. This is an ideal month for food preservation. Harvests are bountiful now and with the end of the season not unthinkably far ahead, it’s a good time to start planning your winter diet. Take a look at our article – Preserving the Summer Harvest for Winter – for just a few ideas of many on how to preserve fresh fruits and vegetables to get us through cold garden-less days.

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