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August Gardening Tips

vegetable garden in fall

Vegetable Gardening Tips

Harvest!  Regularly picking beans, tomatoes, zucchini, etc., encourages continued production of new and tender vegetables.
Similarly, pinch off basil flowers to encourage continued leaf production.
Plant now for fall and winter harvest. Sky has vegetable starts for fall/winter harvest, plus a fresh selection of Ed Hume and Territorial seeds. You may need to use shade cloth to protect newly-planted beds. Click for Sky’s Winter Vegetable Gardening information sheet.
Water and shade your wilters! Lettuce, spinach, other greens, radishes, and beets may suffer as much from heat and glare as from lack of water.  Planting tall plants to the west of their bed or putting up a shade cloth can give them relief from hot afternoon sun.  Afternoon shade and consistent watering can help prevent your more tender plants from bolting (sending up a tall central stalk). 

If a lettuce plant or other vegetable does bolt, that plant is trying to flower and set seed before it dies. It’s past its prime for eating when it does that, usually turning both tough and bitter.  Best to compost that plant and put in fresh starts. 

Water and fertilize your heat-lovers (tomatoes, basil, eggplants, pepper, beans, corn, cucumbers, squash and pumpkins). Use a good liquid organic fertilizer (such as Dr. Earth Liquid Solution) weekly to keep your heat-lovers in their prime of growth and production.
Towards the end of the month, you may want to start removing new flowers from eggplants, peppers, squash, and large (not cherry) tomatoes in order to encourage the plant to focus its energy on ripening the fruit that has already started developing.  At this time, you can also discontinue fertilizing.  Continue to water, however, until the fall rains become regular.

Protect tomatoes from blossom-end rot and cracking by avoiding irregular watering (cycles of drought and drench) while tomatoes are ripening. Blossom-end rot can also be caused by calcium deficiency; if you did not apply lime at the time of planting, Sky carries a fast-acting calcium foliar spray (Rot-Stop) to correct deficiencies.

If you want big pumpkins, try removing all the smaller fruits on a plant to encourage the plant to send all its energy to the largest pumpkins.

Garlic and storage onions:
When the tops start to die back, stop watering.  Once the tops have withered completely, the bulbs are ready to dig and store.

Potatoes, especially early ones, may be dug as “new potatoes” any time after the tubers start to form.  To maximize your harvest, however, wait to dig until the tops die (which may be October for the late varieties).

Berries & Fruit Trees

Remember that most fruit trees and berries need regular water to bear and ripen their fruit properly (more water than other trees and shrubs). Drought can cause immediate fruit drop or malformation, and inhibit next year’s bud formation.  Consider installing watering bags for trees and soaker hoses or drip systems for berry bushes.  Try not to use sprinklers on or around fruit trees, especially stone fruits (cherries, plums, etc.), as overhead watering can spread disease spores.

Monitor fruit trees and berries for insect and disease problems. Consult a Sky Nursery associate for recommendations if you spot an issue.

Cut out suckers and waterspouts (whippy vertical branches).

perennials, grasses in the landscape

Ornamental Gardening

Water deeply and you won’t have to water as often.  Check your irrigation system to be sure heads are not blocked and are properly adjusted.  Make sure your system is functioning properly and delivering enough water to your plants.

Watch for aphids and insects (see Sky for ladybugs and other controls).

Groom perennials and flowering shrubs, removing spent flowers.

Fertilize bedding plants and annuals regularly through the end of the month.  Deadhead to encourage continued bloom.

Look for dahlias, rudbeckias,  and other late-summer and fall bloomers for bursts of color to enliven your beds and containers.

Late summer should be hummingbird heaven in your garden.  Plant hardy fuchsias in the shade, or penstemon and salvia in the sun to attract more!  Bees and butterflies, too, are loading up on nectar this time of year. Visit Sky’s “nectar café” for recommended flowers in full bloom.

Protect new transplants from heat and glare with shade cloth.

Planters and Hanging Baskets

Water!  Remember that a container can dry out in less than a day in hot or windy weather. 

Fertilize heavy blooming annuals in containers or baskets every two weeks until the end of the month.  Deadhead regularly to encourage continued bloom.

Lawn care

If your grass has gone dormant (brown), leave your lawn alone as much as possible until fall rains green it up again. Do not mow or treat for weeds; walk on it as little as possible. (If your lawn is used heavily while it is dormant, you may need to reseed it in the fall.)

If you are keeping your lawn watered through the summer, reduce your water needs by setting your mowing height higher to encourage deep root growth, and by grass cycling (leaving the clippings on the lawn).
Do NOT fertilize now with a fast-release fertilizer, which could encourage a growth spurt that would leave your turf susceptible to drought/heat damage.
If you have a problem with water running off your turf rather than soaking in, apply E-Z-Wet to help the water penetrate better.

If weeds are a problem, try pulling or spot-treating rather than using a weed & feed product.  Remember that a well-fed lawn can outgrow most weed problems.


water bowl fountain with pump

Water Gardening

Plants and fish both need nutrition if they’re going to put on their best show for you—feed them!
Give fish smaller amounts of good summer fish food several times a day rather than all at one time.  Each time, give enough food for your fish to finish in about five minutes.
Feed your pond plants with aquatic plant food tablets; water lilies in particular should be fed once a month.