Tuesday, August 2, 2011

August Calendar

August always brings a brief moment of vegetable envy.  Luckily, it doesn’t last long.  The basil we’ve grown in raised beds is enough to dress the tomatoes that more ambitious friends deliver.  As their vegetable gardens threaten to overwhelm the ability of the owners to freeze or can, we can sit back and contemplate the quiet of our garden. Often, it’s too hot to work outside, but the earlier work completed in cooler weather is paying off.   Most of the garden weeds are gone by now.  Assiduous weeding and heavy mulching are giving us a few weeks of rest, interrupted only by watering and expeditions for cutting.  

As August winds down, it’s hard to miss the tall stands of bright yellow flowers spilling over a fence or splayed against a wall.  Paler colors fade in the brilliant light of August, but yellow and orange hold their own as they seem to be direct by-products of the natural light.  If you are within city limits, you will most likely see Black-eyed Susan and citified, diminutive versions of the more rampant natives.  If you are anywhere in the countryside in August you will be in danger of running off the road trying to name six-to-eight foot stands of unidentified daisy-like yellow flowers. 

Common sneezeweed

August is the peak month for garden lilies.  Now is the time to select yours for fall planting.
Cut off the browned foliage of bleeding hearts.
Ferns will also begin to brown out about now.  You can leave them alone, or if the aesthetics bother you, trim off the dieback.

Unidentified hydrangea in a
Connecticut garden

Shorter days will bring an earlier twilight and a particular luminosity to white flowers in the garden.  Think about nicotiana and white phlox for next year.  Perhaps a white Rose of Sharon or a strong hydrangea at the edge of the lawn.
Make note of which annuals best withstand August heat and continue to bloom as summer cools down.  Add them to your plans for next year.
Replenish mulch.  It will decompose in the heat of August.

Callibroacha in pot
Keep a watchful eye on containers. By now they will have filled up with roots and will require a more frequent watering schedule than when the roots were surrounded by an ample amount of moist soil.
Evaluate the shade in your borders. Branches may have grown and are now shading beds that used to be in full sun.

Garden sales are moving apace.  Take advantage of them.  Container-grown plants continue to drop in price. 

Meadow rue in back of the border
Meadow rue is looking pretty good at the back of the border. If you need something tall and lilies are too exotic for you, try the delicate meadow rue.
Order iris, poppies, and peonies for late summer planting.
Roadsides are rich with Queen Anne’s Lace.  Stop and bring some home. Or try the cultivated variety, Ammi majus. 
This is the last moment to fertilize perennials, lawns and woody plants. If you do this any later, new growth won’t survive the autumn chill ahead.


Finish pruning spring-flowering deciduous shrubs.

This is the last call to start perennials and biennials from seed.

This is a pretty good time to plant container-grown evergreens, but you must pay close attention to watering. 

If you are gardening on a rooftop or a paved courtyard, keep up with watering chores.  Tubbed trees suffering from drought are the first to produce borers.  Watch out for piles of sawdust at the base of trees.

Annuals are the best way to fill the gaps in summer-blooming perennial beds.  Zinnias, cosmos, cleome, sunflowers and annual helianthus are all good choices.  They can all be sown outside next spring after the last frost.

Rampant wisteria covering windows all the
way to the roof; NYC

Aggressive vines will have made a spectacle of themselves by now.  Thin excessive growth on autumn clematis, trumpet vine and wisteria. 


Begin harvesting raspberries.  Cut back old canes after blooming, but leave the new.  Next year’s crop will come from this year’s new canes. 

Take cuttings of fuschia, geranium and begonia for small house plants this winter. 

Butterflies abound if you planted butterfly bush or monarda.  Monarchs and Swallowtails are back in force.

Every group of plants will present some candidates with damaged foliage this summer.  Try and sort out insect damage from fungus, scorching, or mildew and treat accordingly.

Terrace and roof gardens will need some fillers now as summer annuals begin to peter out.  Look for annual asters and mums in garden centers.  Add new geraniums as the old will have likely suffered in the August heat.

In city gardens note which plants have performed poorly and ruthlessly eliminate them.  You don’t have space to waste.

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