By Ingrid Schneller Copyright 2012

August gardening is a month of maintenance including watering, harvesting, deadheading, feeding and fall planting. This is the time to plant colourful blooms and cool season crops that will last into the fall.

Watering Wisdom

During the dry, hot days of August, avoid wasting water with light, surface watering which never reaches the root zone of the plant, and evaporates more quickly. Deep watering will induce the plant’s roots to grow deeper.

Remember that your lawn only needs about an inch of water per week, and that deep watering will encourage healthy root growth.

When possible, do your watering in the morning or early afternoon when the soil has a chance to warm up before the cooler evening hours set in. After watering lawns and landscape plants, don’t water again until the top 1-2 inches of soil has dried out.

To do:

  • Check the soil of your garden beds and borders with a shovel or trowel. The soil should be moist 3 inches deep unless you have drought-resistant plants.
  • Each day, check your containers and hanging baskets by pushing your finger into the soil which should be moist right down to the root area.

Lush Lawns

Where your lawn is concerned, fertilize with summer formulas. Late summer and fall is an excellent time to fertilize lawns. Apply 1 to 2 pounds of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. If you mow your own lawn, raise the height on your mower. Taller grass will help your lawn stay green, as well as conserve moisture.

Thatch Removal. Thatch removal can be booked for late August or September. Thatch is the layer of dead and living plant material that forms between the soil surface and green foliage. Available from many rental companies and garden centers, vertical mowers and power rakes, help to thin the grass and lift the thatch to the soil surface. At least four weeks of good growing weather following dethatching. This gives the turf grass time to recover before it becomes dormant in the late fall. Apply fertilizer after dethatching to promote recovery of the turf grass.

Aeration. Lawn that gets heavy foot traffic can start to thin out. It’s important to aerate compacted soils in late August or September. Book a core aeration treatment. Avoid spike-type devices that simply punch holes in the turf. Break up the soil cores by raking or mowing after aeration. Then apply fertilizer to promote recovery of the turf.

Seeding. Late summer is one of the best times to establish new lawns or overseed thin or severely damaged lawns. Seeding can start in mid-August and should be completed by late September.

Plan for weed control in the fall by scheduling treatment. Weeds like dandelions and plantain can be controlled with the application of broadleaf herbicides from mid-September to early November.

Bountiful Blooms

Your beds, borders and rock gardens can include succulents, hardy perennials, and seasonal annuals. Many succulents bloom well into October. Popular picks include autumn crocus, garden mum and ornamental kale, a frilly, colourful accent that can be added to almost any part of your landscape.

Home Harvest

Harvest by frequent picking – this includes herbs and crops. Pick herbs for fresh use and for drying. Harvesting will keep them growing longer.

Overripe fruit on tomato, squash, beans, and eggplant prevents smaller fruits from maturing and can attract pests and diseases.

Not sure when to harvest? Follow these tips:

  • Cantaloupe. Netted skin indicates ripeness. Lift and twist fruits. If they’re ready, they’ll slip easily from the vine.
  • Carrot. Pick what’s on the small side: quarter size or smaller.
  • Green bean. Look for the thickness of a pencil.
  • Potato. Look for brown tubers that are falling over.
  • Summer squash. Small sizes are fine to pick.

Cool Season Crops

Start planting cool-season crops of onions, radishes, garden cress, miner’s lettuce, and arugula. Non-bulb veggies can be planted into fall.

Veggies fresh from-the-garden taste better and are higher in vitamins (this is probably even more true in winter than in summer, since so much of the commercially available winter produce is grown in the southern hemisphere). Many vegetables store more sugars when they are exposed to cold temperatures. Replace those annuals that have finished with new ones. Give the garden a fresh look by trying something new. Choose larger plants to create a strong show from now until frost.

Gardener’s Checklist

  • Help plants retain moisture by adding mulch.
  • Pick overripe crop and deadhead plants.
  • Amend soil by adding compost, and be sure to mulch.
  • Start saving seeds.
  • Plan for cold frames and protection for fall crops.
  • Keep a close eye on weeds. During warmer weather with increased watering, weed seeds will germinate rapidly, producing an abundance of seeds that will invade your garden.
  • Plant trees, shrubs and perennials now, so they can take root, and keep them well watered.