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Plant Fall Crops
August is a good month for planting fall crops in your garden. In Zone 6 and warmer, you can still plant some substantial crops like beans, cauliflower, cucumber and squash. The options in Zone 5 and colder, your options become more limited but definitely worth doing: Look at hardy, cold-tolerant greens like kale and chard, as well as some lettuces, spinach and Asian greens.
Plant Trees and Shrubs
Containers or burlap-ball shrubs and trees should go into the ground four to six weeks before first frost. In Northern gardens that means late August. This gives the plant a chance to establish itself before the onset of winter, but not to get so far along that it thinks a new growing season has begun.
Coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, hostas and other perennials that flower in spring will start to flag a bit in your garden by the end of August. To keep them healthy and ready to explode next spring, divide the roots as the plants die back, and relocate them if you can.
Build a Cold Frame to Extend the Season
In August, you should start preparing to defend your garden against first frost. Build a cold frame (you can use it again in spring), a hoop house or even tack sheets of 3-mil plastic to some 2x4s to have at the ready so you don’t end up trying to drape old sheets over your garden as the sun sets.
Refresh Your Garden Mulch
July and August take a toll on garden mulch — it washes away, fades out, or simply disappears into the undergrowth. Scatter a few bags now and your fall garden will look neater and be nestled in snugly for the coming winter
Fertilize Your Garden for a Fantastic Finish
Depending on the crop, your garden plants and lawn have likely expended all or most of the nutrition from your spring fertilizing. August is a great time to re-up the amendments in your garden and yard. Stay on top of this if you use organic fertilizers: It takes much longer for organic nutrients to break down and become available to plants.
Clean and Maintain Your Garden Tools
Your garden and lawn tools have had a pretty good workout by now. Give them some attention in August before the frenzy of harvesting hits. You’ll need to repeat the process before you put them to bed for the winter, but the job becomes much easier when you’re not dealing with a whole season’s worth of wear and grime.
Cut Back Your Herbs
Parsley, cilantro, basil, dill and other cool-season herbs probably have bolted by August, becoming too bitter to consume. You can let them flower — a good idea because pollinators love herb flowers, and the plants will self-seed later in fall. Or, cut them back a couple of inches above ground and most should grow back for a fresh fall crop.
Order Fall-Planted Bulbs
Don’t start planting your fall bulbs in August (tulips, crocuses, hyacinth, garlic etc.). But go ahead and order them from your favorite garden catalog. Most bulbs sell out as the late-fall planting season approaches, so order yours while the selection is best. Store them in a cool, dry place until the right time for planting.
Prune Your Summer-Flowering Shrubs
By the end of August, summer-flowering shrubs (hydrangea, mock orange, spirea) begin to wane a bit, which makes it a good time to prune them. You can still identify any dead branches easily and you don’t need to worry (much) about damaging the plant.
Enjoy Your Garden
You spend the whole summer with your face buried in tomato plants looking for aphids or scanning for garden weeds, and it is easy to miss the big picture. Take some time to stroll through your gardens. Make notes: What worked and what didn’t? What should you do differently next year? Snap photos (or draw maps and make sketches, if you prefer), take note of plant varieties and where they are planted. You might think you’ll remember next spring but don’t count on it. And, perhaps most importantly, enjoy your garden: This is why we do it!
Article by Mark Johanson for Handyman©