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August in the Garden

by Sue Adams

Ah, August in the garden! My cutting garden is exploding with color! Thirteen varieties of zinnias, celosia, marigolds, tithonia, salvia, statice, strawflower (trying a 2023 introduction) gladiolas and scaevola (fan flower). Twenty-five experimental containers (flowers are 2023 introductions) adorn the deck and pool area, and containers of eggplant provide the main ingredient for my special dish.

We’re enjoying the bounty of vegetables and herbs from Mark’s garden. What could be better?

Enjoy the flowers and veggies you’ve planted, and here are a few tips for August in the garden:

– Visit the new flower display at the Dutchess County Fair and vote for your favorites for  2023!

Give your pots and beds a face lift by tucking in cool season annual flowers to keep the color show going through fall. All you have to do is gently pull out dead or dying plants, and drop in the replacements. Voilà! A delightful new look!

Give your flower bed an injection of color by adding a generous helping of chrysanthemums. Mums go with any garden décor, and the nectar-rich flowers are great for pollinators.

– Be rewarded with new blooms by removing spent flowers on annuals, roses and perennials.

– Extend the life of the beautiful flowers you’ve planted by creating dried flower bouquets! Candidates for drying include strawflower, statice, globe amaranth (gomphrena), seed heads of poppies, roses, yarrow, dianthus, coneflower, lavender, salvia, globe thistle, sea holly, and ornamental grasses. Don’t ignore the “wild” garden as milkweed pods are a great accent to your bouquet.

– August is a great time to dig and divide perennial flowers such as hosta, day lily, ornamental grasses and bearded iris.  Use a spade to lift the plant from the ground, being careful to damage the root ball as little as possible. When the clump is out of the ground, us a large knife or spade to cut it into smaller pieces that can be replanted.

– If you’ve treated your houseplants to time outdoors, they’ve probably responded with a lot of new growth. If they need a larger container, August is a great time to repot. Your houseplants will have time to become accustomed to their new pots before cool weather arrives. A little trimming will encourage new growth. Before moving your houseplants indoors, acclimate them by moving them to shadier and shadier places each day, and then finally returning them to the house. Leave unwanted visitors to your plants behind by submerging the pots in a tub or bucket with warm water about an inch below the rim for 15 minutes or wiping them off or using a sharp spray of water. You can also use a commercially available insecticidal soap or neem oil.

– Visit your vegetable bed every day, especially if you’re growing zucchini! Summer squash is best when harvested when 6 – 8” long. Miss a day and you may see squash the size of a child’s baseball bat. Pick cherry tomatoes and enjoy these tasty morsels before the fruit starts to split. Regular tomatoes are tastiest when allowed to ripen on the vine. Although peppers can be picked at any time, the longer the fruit stays on the plant, the more intense the flavor. Read these 5 Tips for Harvesting Fruits & Vegetables.

– Too many vegetables? Can, freeze and pickle!

– Is your strawberry bed overcrowded? Now is the time to thin out the strawberries by removing some plants and tossing them to the compost or transplanting to another bed. Remove any weeds, then cover with a thick layer of mulch to insulate the plants and protect the soil.

Dry and/or freeze herbs to enjoy all winter long. Read my tips on Drying Herbs.

Plant perennials and shrubs which will take root during the cool, moist fall weather and reward you with delightful blooms next spring and summer.

Put the garden to bed as the summer garden inevitably ends. When plants begin to die off and stop producing fruit, now is the time to pull up the dead crop and plant a cover crop which will not only protect the soil surface, but also nourish the soil.

Stop feeding roses in August so that the growth can harden sufficiently before killing frost arrives.

Prep for frost by having sheets, plastic, or towels ready to cover plants when there is a frost warning.

– Raise your mower height so you’re cutting grass higher. When the grass is taller, it shades the soil beneath which reduces water evaporation from the soil.

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