Garden Clippings: August To-Do List

I find myself in doldrums each year as I trudge my way through August. I have to force myself to continue watering the container plantings each evening after work, the grass goes a few days longer than it should between mowing, the weedless perennial border now has a few new unintended plants, and even the picture-perfect tomatoes that would have made me whistle with glee a month ago are carried into the house in a slow, robotic motion.

This year, however, is going to be different. I’m going to take a deep breath and accomplish tasks that will pay off for the garden in the long run.

Vegetables for fall harvest

First, there is going to be a fall garden planted in the area where the cucumbers and zucchini squash have withered away. I haven’t been big on planting a late-season vegetable garden in the past, because of the aforementioned doldrums.

Beets, spinach, lettuce and just about any of the early season crops we put out can be planted in August for a fall harvest. Yields from the fall garden may not be impressive, compared to the early season garden, but the taste of garden-fresh vegetables will be months away without the fall planting. In my climate, it will require some additional watering, because in all likelihood I will be without the benefit of those timely spring rains.

August is also a great time to start repairing some of the bare spots in cool season lawns. Fescue, ryegrass and bluegrass all establish well during the warm days and cool nights of fall. August nights may not be cool, but by starting the process during the middle or latter part of the month, it will give newly seeded areas time to thrive during September and October. This will allow the newly seeded areas to be well-established before going into winter.

Make sure to use a hard rake to loosen up the soil surface to allow good soil contact for the seed when filling in thin areas. For areas to be completely renovated, till to a depth of 2 to 3 inches, broadcast the seed, and then lightly rake it in.

I’ll be sure to do some overseeding this August, because my normal routine is to get busy in September with other things and not get my grass planted until late in the month, only to have a chance at a successful stand if the weather stays nice later than normal.

Divide and Conquer flowers

The last thing I’ve promised myself to do this month is to transplant day lilies and iris. This is the perfect time of year to move both of these plants to enhance their odds of blooming the first season after being moved. Normally, I put this task off until spring because I’ve forgotten what color the plants are by this time of year. With the help of a new digital camera, though, I’ve captured each of the plants in a photo during bloom, and I’ve got the photos stored on my computer, making a failing memory less of a hindrance for moving these plants. I’m not the type of gardener who enjoys making and maintaining plant name stakes.

Dividing and moving iris and day lilies is not something that should require a lot of instruction. There are only two things you really need to be concerned with. The first is making sure you have a healthy division that has a large enough root or corm to give the transplant a chance at survival. The second is to be sure not to plant them too deep. These resilient plants amaze me at how they can be moved about and still flourish.

I hope I can catch my second wind this August and accomplish all of these gardening jobs. If I do, it will leave me plenty of time to accomplish other projects during the busy fall and spring months.