August a good month to prepare a fall garden
It’s hot. It’s dry. It’s searing. Fittingly “sere,” meaning dried up or parched, was once an old name for the month of August. August, of course, comes from Augustus Caesar, meaning venerable. But what part of this hot month can be venerable in the garden? Granted, you can still plant, assuming you water well.
August is a good month to prepare your fall garden. Plant beans, beets, broccoli, carrots, Chinese cabbage, kale, lettuce, summer squash and peas for fall harvest. Try flooding the planting rows with water, letting them drain and then planting your seeds. Cover the seeds with dirt and water again. Many gardeners plant summer-sown seeds just a little deeper than usual to protect them from the scorching sun.
During hot and dry summer months, soil can form a hard crust over the seeds and keep them from sprouting. Lettuce and spinach seeds won’t even germinate when the soil temperature is higher than 85 degrees F. Try covering these seeds with wet burlap cloth, newspapers, or even boards to maintain a cool and damp soil.
Shade the newly planted crops with twiggy branches and use a light mulch over the seeded rows to keep the temperature down.
Once your seeds sprout, be sure to remove the boards, burlap and any shading brush right away.
The compost pile needs water to stay active, so give it a good soaking once a week.
Now through September is a good time to transplant any trees or shrubs that you have purchased with root balls wrapped in burlap. Plant them immediately or within three days after buying them. No need to fertilize newly planted trees or shrubs for at least two years, when they develop feeding roots.
If your lawn has bare spots, you can reseeded with grass now. The newly planted grass seed will take hold and develop roots before winter sets in. Always water newly planted grass every day.
In the cutting garden, leave at least three leaves when cutting gladiolus, so that the corms (bulbs) can continue to build up food. Let the corms ripen before digging them up for winter storage. Cut your flowers early in the morning and put them immediately into cool water. Change the water in vases every day to prolong blossoms.
Cut back or deadhead any flowers that have finished blooming. This will encourage reblooming providing you give the plants plenty of water and a side dressing of fertilizer.
August is when much of the vegetable garden is in full production.
Keep everything well picked to encourage more vegetables to grow. Also, most vegetables taste best when picked on the small side. Huge, over-ripe summer squash or zucchini will have tough, inedible seeds and skins. Toss them into the compost pile.
Cut herbs just before the flowers open for the most flavor. Once the plants flower, most herbs become bitter and woody tasting. Harvest early in the morning, after the dew dries, but before the heat of the day. Cut your annual herbs such as basil, right up until a hard frost.
Stop cutting perennial herbs such as rosemary and lavender about one month before the frost date. If you cut them late in the season, the plants often send up new tender shoots that will be killed in winter.
Winter? Given the searing heat one wonders if winter will in fact ever come.