August’s Garden: Savor the Summer

From apples, blueberries, cucumbers, hollyhock, hydrangea, hot peppers, melons, marigolds, monarchs, ‘maters, sweet ‘taters to zinnias, everywhere I look there’s something tasty, something beautiful and something with a delightful smell.  What a blessing it is, and there is so much to be thankful for as we are surrounded by all these summer pleasures.


Any vacant areas in the garden that you don’t have plans for in the fall can be planted with a cover crop such as buckwheat.  You and the bees will love its pretty white flowers, and when you mow it down later, let it lay for a few days then incorporate it into your soil.

*Continue to sow seeds for arugula, beets, bush beans, carrots, cabbage, collards, cilantro, chard, chives, parsley, dill, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, peas, spinach, turnips and radishes until August 15th.  Set out transplants of broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, collards and onions.

*Plant fall blooming crocus and colchicum bulbs.

*For some fall fragrance to enjoy, plant autumn clematis (clematis paniculata), annual stock and flowering tobacco.


August is a busy month for harvesting.   All the summer crops are producing and need to be picked when they are young and tender such as green beans, okra, cucumber, squash and eggplant.  Crops like tomatoes and melons let ripen on the vine for best flavor.

*Dig potatoes after tops have died down.

*Harvest herbs regularly to keep them pretty and producing.

*If you have let green beans over-mature, let them ripen on the vine.

Terrific Tomatoes

Well I would have to say my all time favorite and best performer this year was the pineapple tomato.  Big beautiful color and markings, meaty, juicy and delicious.

The San Marzano was not quite what I expected.  It’s a little smaller than I thought they would be but WOW were they ever prolific.   They were everywhere and then they were everywhere else.  I have yet to make a sauce from them, for which they supposed to be prized, but they are good in a salad.


*Let some vegetables and herbs go to seed to self sow or so you can save their seed.

*Prune summer blooming shrubs after their flowers finish.

*Add compost, worm castings or well composted manure to available beds to ready them for planting another crop now or planting a fall crop.

*Begin dividing perennials, starting with bearded iris.

*Deadhead flowers to encourage more blooms and keep them looking nice.

*Chop up weeds you pull (without seeds) to go into the compost.  Surely you must have some, if not, I’ll share.

*Keep compost pile moist, like a damp sponge and turn often to hasten decomposition.

*Fertilize roses.

*Fertilize new plantings of June bearing strawberries.

*So far this year, the need to water has been very little.   We have had some high heat with which to contend, so if the heat continues and there is a lack of rain, water deeply at the base of your plants.  Just spraying things lightly or surface water just encourages plant roots to come to the surface, and this will make them more  vulnerable to drying out.

*Check plants for insects often to keep them from getting out of hand.

*Remove and discard any diseased foliage and destroy.  DO NOT add this to compost.

*Start preparing cold frames.

*Prune old flowering canes after last raspberry harvest, leaving 3-4 young canes per row foot.  Do not prune shoot tips until spring.

*Add mulch to beds where needed.

*Feed all blooming perennials, cut back if straggly, and keep spent blooms removed to encourage their last show of the season.

Herbs in the Garden

Herbs are so wonderful to have in the garden for culinary uses, teas, medicinal uses, lotions, potions, tinctures, decorations, crafts, a food source for pollinators and as  dynamic accumulators (plants that concentrate micro and macro nutrients from the soil into their leaves, stems and roots).

If you want to give the soil in your organic garden a boost, herbs can help you do that in several ways.  Some herbs have large tap roots which go down into deeper layers of the soil to reach nutrients not available to plants with shallower root systems.  They also help in the process of breaking heavy clay or compacted soil.  Many herbs can be used as green manures.  After the growing season you harvest and chop them into small pieces or mow over and incorporate them into the soil.

The leaves of some herbs can also be used as a green mulch.  This is a great way to use a perennial herb if you don’t want to harvest the whole plant.  To use the plants in this way, remove no more than one-third of the leaves and layer them no more than two inches thick.  The essential minerals will be released into the soil as they decay.  If you are harvesting a whole plant for use as a green mulch, chop up everything to use.

The compost pile is another way to benefit from these dynamic accumulators.  They can help to activate decomposition and give a nutritional boost to your finished product.  Comfrey and yarrow are accumulators of nitrogen, so these are great to chop up and combine into the compost pile.

Here are some herbs to consider to boost soil nutrition.   These are just a few herbs that can do double duty and more in your garden.

*Caraway absorbs phosphorus.

*German chamomile accumulates calcium, phosphorus and potassium.

*Comfrey is an accumulator of nitrogen, potassium, magnesium, calcium and iron.  This great green manure and compost accelerator can be used in compost tea or ground into a meal and incorporated into the soil.

*Chives accumulate sodium and calcium.

*Borage’s large tap root breaks up compacted soils, stores up potassium and attracts pollinators.

*Lemon balm’s thick, fibrous roots accumulate phosphorus and is good to add in compost pile.

*Parsley stores up calcium, magnesium, iron and potassium and has sizeable tap roots.

*Peppermint accumulates potassium and magnesium.  It is a good companion plant for cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower to help deter the white cabbage moth.

*Summer savory accumulates potassium.

*Valerian accumulates silicon and attracts pollinators.

*Yarrow accumulates nitrogen, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, calcium and copper.

Summer Flower Power from Flowering Shrubs and Trees

A favorite, summer, blooming shrub of mine are hydrangeas.  They give a big, long-lasting, carefree performance.  Who doesn’t love those white, blue or pink blossoms of the H. macrophylla? WOW! They are so gorgeous.   The oak leaf hydrangea starts out with big, six-inch or more, conical clusters of tiny, white blooms that gradually change to a cream and slightly pink color, then to a tan.   It actually offers big, beautiful, sweet, fragrant blooms in the spring and summer, and the foliage color in the fall is spectacular.  The lime light hydrangea lights up its place in the garden and is easy care.   If you want happy butterflies, a must-have is the butterfly bush.  The Monarchs are having a feast on mine.

And for flowering trees, I love crepe myrtles.  I have them in white, red, pink and fuchsia.   The blooms are so beautiful and the bark of those trees also adds great fall and winter interest in the garden.  Then there is the Rose of Sharon.   Other common names include shrub althea and Chinese hibiscus.   They have large, cup-shaped flowers in beautiful colors and there are varieties with double blooms.   Also, they are oh, so pretty.

So if you’re starting to think about adding some flowering shrubs or trees to plant this fall in your garden or landscape, these will definitely give you some great flower power.

Summer Pleasures

Food is one of life’s necessities, but it is also a great pleasure when it is good, of course.  There is great joy and pleasure in growing and preserving your own food, knowing what’s in and on it and most importantly, what’s not.  Family and friend time is often enjoyed together with food.  What joy can be found in sharing an ice cold watermelon or cantaloupe with juice dripping down your chin, your arm and elbow on a summer day under a shade tree or maybe by the creek, so you can jump in and de-juice afterwards.   So yes, it is a little work to pick blueberries, but those plump little blueberries bursting with sweet taste and wonderful antioxidants go popping in my mouth almost as fast as I can pick them.  However, I MUST make it to the house with some for my mom to make one of her delicious pies and her blueberry jam.  Now that’s definitely a pleasure!

What a splendid time can be had with family and friends sharing and savoring the food, flowers, smells and the beauty of the summer pleasures in the August garden.

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