- The tail end of one of the coolest summers on record. August is still grass, vine and ground cover appreciation month with warm season grasses reaching their full height and beginning to flower - glimmering feathery plumes that catch the sunlight. They are great to bring indoor to add to flower arrangements.
- Despite the unseasonal coolness it is really too hot to platen this month - a few weeks after Labor day is a much safer bet. Vines need to be checked to make sure they are securely fastened as the pounding rain and gusty winds that frequently accompany late summer thunderstorms can rip the ones from trellis and walls.
- Ground cover beds should be weeded to avoid weed competition and minimize disease pathogens. Many perennials are now setting seed - coreopsis, coneflower, hardy begonia, goldenrod etc. Leaving the seedheads on late season perennials has become a growing trend thanks to designers such as Piet Ouldof, the seed heads not only provide winter interest they provide seed for finches and other birds. To neaten their appearance some leggy stems of Goldenrod, artemisia, and black eyed susans can be cut back, and aged, discolored foliage removed from plants such as Lady's Mantle which is now looking really ratty. It is also good to cut off the flower stems of hostas as soon as their flowers fade and to clip off spent flower heads on phlox to encourage a second, lighter flowering.
- The more informal landscape roses are getting a second wind and flowering nicely and the rugosas in my garden are now beginning to show gorgeous bright-orange hips that are almost more decorative than their flowers. If you haven't fertilized your roses yet, now is not the time to start. A general rule of thumb is to stop any supplemental feeding six weeks before the first frost is expected as there is no point in stimulating tender new foliage which does not have time to mature before it can be damaged. It's more important for plants to start storing energy in their roots to prepare for winter than push out new growth.
- The vegetable garden is now in its glory. Almost everything has been planted and the picking is delicious. Tomatoes, eggplant, tomatillos, zucchini are falling off the vines. Lettuce is regrowing, beans, snap peas, fennel and carrots are fabulous and sweet corn is the best I can remember! Our asparagus bed needs endless weeding but most other beds are under control.
- There is still time for a second planting of turnips, spinach, lettuce, beets, radishes, chard and winter onions. It is also still a good idea to provide a liquid fertilizer snack for the productive plants and replace the soil's nutrients when planting a succession crop. Powdery mildew develops on plant foliage but can be ignored on mature or nearly finished vegetable plants. All new and emerging foliage can be sprayed with a sulfur-based garden fungicide that will protect the plants from further infection. Spider modes can curl leaves of make them look sickly or dirty. Infested leaves should be pinched off and the foliage sprayed with a forceful water spray to knock off the mites.