August Gardening To-Do Tips
In the August garden the weather continues to be somewhat unpredictable, but it has still been on the mild side so far this summer. I’m finding fruits and vegetables in my garden are behind schedule and many edibles and flowers are setting fewer seeds and fruits than usual. I’m hoping this is just an idiosyncracy of the year rather than a sign of something bigger. We shall see. In the meantime, here are some tips on gardening to-dos for the month of August — this month and in summertimes in general.
- Water lawns slowly and deeply early in the morning. The second choice is to water in the evening. Evenings allow the water to penetrate with little evaporation, but the combination of moisture and dark can encourage fungal infections. Try to finish watering well before dark so the grass surface has a chance to dry out before night sets in. If you see mushrooms sprouting randomly, it’s a sure sign you are overwatering. If small mushrooms form a ring in the lawn, you need to treat with a fungicide; these are ‘fairy rings’ – a fungal infection that can do serious damage killing the grass inside the circle.
- If the weather gets hot, enjoy any and all of your water features. Use your pool and sit by the fountain. The sound of running water can be very refreshing even if the temperatures are not.
- If you have a pond, keep removing dead leaves and pick spent flowers from water plants. Feed fish lightly. There is enough food provided by Mother Nature to keep them alive in most ponds. Feeding them is fun for both fish and pond owners, but you can do more damage by over-feeding than underfeeding your fish. Too much food will go uneaten and rot into the water raising acidity and threatening the balance of the pond. String algae can build up in the ponds at this time of year and clog all your systems. It’s important to keep the green stuff pulled before it creates problems.
- If you use drip irrigation, make it a habit to patrol your garden and look for chewed or broken tubing. Rats and rabbits love gnawing on the drip irrigation lines. Tubing is easily fixed with a straight connector. But you won’t fix what you don’t know about. Broken pipes and tubing will endanger plants further down the line you think are getting watered but are not. Also check sprinkler heads for clogs or breaks. If you have an irrigation system that comes on early or late you might not notice there is a problem until things turn brown or your water bill goes sky high. Getting in the habit of regular checks will save you from most of these problems.
- Keep fruits and vegetables picked to encourage more production from your plants. Try netting or net-bagging your produce while it ripens to discourage gnawing pests. By the end of the month you can consider seeding an early start for some of your cool season vegetables. Go light since it is still hot and you can add more seed next month. Plant broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, peas, leeks, root crops (like beets and carrots), and fava beans. Hold off on lettuce. Lettuce seed tends to germinate poorly if temperatures are over seventy degrees.
- This is not the best time of the year for planting California natives. You can plant them if can keep them well-watered. Many are in dormancy at this time of year so don’t expect them to look perky. All natives will need extra help getting through the shock of planting in summer heat. It will be better if you can wait for next month. Succulents and cactus plants are easily transplanted in the heat and dry so this is a fine time to put them in the ground.
- Compost piles should be ‘cooking’ nicely if you remember to keep them moist. You shouldn’t need any fancy additives for them to break down in the summertime. If you want to make the whole thing easier, buy a barrel composter so all you have to do is turn it to keep it mixed. A manufactured composter will also be less likely to attract rodents.
- If you decide to do planting this month, make sure to keep new arrivals well watered. If you can rig up some shade cloth for new plants in full sun, an extra week of transitional shade should keep them from burning in their new locations.
- Clear away brush and any build-up of dead leaves in the garden and around the house. Sweep out gutters of dried debris, too. Thankfully this year has been quiet with only a few minor wildfires. We can hope it is a good season, but it’s best to be prepared for anything. Keeping your home clean will not only protect you from the threat of wildfires, but it will discourage pests like rodents and insect invasions.
- Deadheading flowers will keep plants blooming longer, especially annuals. Clip off spent blooms so others can bud up from beneath. A light pruning to keep plants shapely will keep the garden tidy. Wait another month or two for larger pruning jobs. And consider collecting any seed setting on your favorite plants to grow for next year. Most seed will keep well in glass jars. The small jars from baby food are perfect for small seed.
- Enjoy our lovely cool evenings outdoors by sharing your garden with friends and family. We have relatively few insects to taunt us after dark, so the evening garden is a wonderful place to spend the later hours of the day.