August Garden To-Do List

August already! It seems like we planted the garden a few weeks ago and here we are eight weeks into the warm weather growing season. I’m ready to scream UNCLE! to the weed gods and plow what’s left under. Most of our garden is grown in the high tunnel. I’ll start transplanting fall/winter seedlings in September but before I can do that, there have to be seedlings. There’s a lot to do so I’ve made my August Garden To-Do List. If I write it all down I can think about the project I’m working on without trying to remember everything else at the same time.

If you’re in a warmer or cooler climate (reminder: I’m not talking USDA Hardiness Zone) you’ll need to adjust what you do in August. These are strictly suggestions, not rules.

What is the Average Date of First Frost?

Part of your August garden to do list might depend on the average date of your first frost. Mine is around September 7, a full week later than ten years ago. Anything planted outside now has to take the average date of first frost in mind. If you don’t know the date you might call your cooperative extension, a local greenhouse business or your neighbors. Work backward from that date to find out when you need to sow the fall seeds.
August garden, pruned cucumber vine, pruning cucumbersIn the meantime, here’s my August Garden To-Do List.

  • Late blight travels in on the wind and on our bodies and clothes. Start watching for the telltale signs.
  • Pinch off new tomato and pepper blossoms at the end of the month. Force growth into the fruit so they’re ripe before they’re killed by frost. Peppers can tolerate light frost. You can buy time by having covers (sheets, blankets, tarps) ready to throw over the plants. If you’re not going to cover the plants, pinch those blossoms.
  • Pinch the ends of vine crops to send energy into the fruit/pumpkin/squash/cucumber/etc.
  • Sow seeds for transplants in a cold frame or high or low tunnel. I’ll be using 1020 trays and transplanting into six packs before they’re transplanted into the garden. I’ll be planting:
    • Spinach, beets, boc choi, tatsoi, kale and other cool-weather greens. Note that everything in this list is a green or a root. No peppers, tomatoes or vine crops.
  • Rush tomato ripening in the third week of August by severing roots 12″ from the stem. Use a spade. The plant will OMG! and ripen the tomatoes faster as a means of replacing itself.
  • Sow seeds for cool weather transplants. Spinach, turnip, beets (greens) and other cool-loving plants.
  • Compost spent plants. Browns can be hard to find this time of year. If you’ve been stock piling paper and cardboard, and spent hay or straw now is the time to put them to work. You can also use wood chips and sawdust as long as they don’t come from pressure treated or other treated wood.
  • Water deeply. This is especially important in the heat of August. We get less rain in August than other summer months. Water deep and less often rather than shallow and daily. This really isn’t any different than any other month but since it’s so important in August it’s worth repeating.
  • Get your low tunnels ready.
    • Ribs: if you don’t have them, get them now. If you start with straight pipes you’ll need to bend them.
    • Take your greenhouse polyethylene (aka plastic and film) out of storage or buy what you need
    • I’ll write out a how-to soon, and we’ll talk about how to make and use them.
  • At the end of August – soil test. Do it now so you know how to amend the soil in the fall. Your results will come back faster than if you wait until spring when most other gardeners are sending their samples.
  • Pay attention to the weather forecast if you’re in an area where frost starts in late summer.
  • If you let peas, beans or other plants mature so you can save seeds, check them now, and check them often so you don’t miss the harvest time. If you leave peas and beans too long they’ll germinate this year, and then they’re lost.

Trench Composting

If you have more greens than you can compost (kitchen waste, for example) you can buy the food/plants and let the soil dwellers do the work. You can feed the microherd and earthworms while they feed the soil. Trench composting is a big time saver. Dig a hole, drop in the greens, back fill the hole. You can mark the spot with a stake if you’re not making a row so that you can find it in the spring. Plant your spring transplants in the rich soil.
August garden, garlic bulbs

Pull Garlic

It’s probably time to pull the garlic. Choose the garlic you want to plant for next year’s crop before you cure your harvest for storage.

Pull Onions

My onions are starting to die back and fall over. The onions won’t grow much more now. I’ve been pulling one as I need it for about a month. As time passed the flavor improved.

Cover Crops

If you’re done with garden space for the year you should amend the soil as needed. We almost can’t add too much lime here. Go to your soil test to see what you need. When your soil is ready, plant a cover crop for winter. You don’t want to leave bare ground for erosion or nutrient loss. If you have a lot of weeds you might want to choose a cover crop that smothers weeds. Cover crops serve a lot of purposes. You’re cooperative extension should be able to help you weed through (see what I did there?) your needs and options. While you have them on the phone, ask what to add to your August garden list.