Although it doesn’t seem possible, summer is fast waning and we have already moved into August. Soon school will start, the leaves will turn colors and Christmas merchandise will hit the store shelves. But that does not mean that gardening is done. There is still much that can be accomplished, including both planting and harvesting.
Late crops of bush beans, beets, Chinese cabbage, cucumbers, kohlrabi, and onion sets can still be sown until mid-August. Many of the greens can tolerate the cooler temperatures and some frost if they are offered light protection such as a row cover. Spinach, kale, chard, and arugula are also good choices for a fall garden. If you have trouble with lettuce and spinach bolting in the spring and summer, try planting it in the fall. The cooler temperatures are much more amenable to these greens.
Many herbs can be moved inside and grown on a windowsill. However, dill, cilantro, parsley, and fennel are surprisingly frost tolerant with a bit of protection, and can continue to be grown outdoors.
Of course, planting new things will keep our harvest going well into the fall while the spring planted vegetables continue to produce. Harvest onions and garlic as the tops dry and fall over. Keep up on the tomatoes, peppers, and melons to avoid any overripe fruit that might attract unwanted insects. Continue with good garden sanitation, removing spent plants and any diseased material.
It would be nice if insects would wind down in the garden during the fall, but such is not the case. Stripped and spotted cucumber beetles are just as prevalent and spread bacteria to melons, gourds, cucumbers, and squashes. Insect control is important for healthy plants. Use of synthetic or organic sprays specifically designated for these insects will keep them at bay. Use the sprays later in the day to minimize damage to the bee population.
Now that we have the vegetable garden under control, let’s take a look at the lawn. From mid-August until mid-September is an ideal time to seed or repair lawns. Prepare new areas by killing weeds and working the soil to a depth of 6-8 inches. Make sure you have good seed to soil contact and cover the seed with a light layer of straw or a soil cover. Keep the soil moist until grass has emerged, around two weeks.
For an established lawn, plan on a fertilizer application around Labor Day. This is the only time of the year that weed and feed products are timed correctly for both fertilization and weed control.
On to the perennial garden. Now is a good time to divide iris and day lilies. Dig up groups of irises, inspect for iris for both iris borer and for soft rot. Destroy (do not compost) any infected plants. Replant in smaller groups and in new locations, making sure to barely cover the rhizomes, then cut the leaves back by two thirds.
To divide daylilies, dig up the entire root ball, shake or wash off the soil, carefully pull apart the roots, cutting thicker ones as necessary. Make sure each division has at least two or three fans of leaves and some healthy roots. Replant with the crown about one inch below the surface level; cut the foliage back to 6-8 inches.
Keep dead and diseased material cleaned up all across your landscaped to prevent problems next season. Enjoy August, because fall is just around the corner.
Certified Master Gardener