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August is the time to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor - fresh tomatoes and basil, perhaps, or a beautiful bouquet of flowers, or a lovely shady place to read a good book. If you feel the urge to garden, try to do most of your gardening in the cooler hours of the morning or early evening - it's better for you and your plants.
Seed August 15 - September 15 for best results in the Anytown area. Choose a seed blend that's right for the area you're seeding, cover with Compro, Michigan peat, or topsoil, and water every day until new seed has sprouted and is tall enough to be mowed.
If your lawn is weedy and you plan to reseed, apply broadleaf weed killers now. Wait three weeks after applying weedkiller before you lay down grass seed.
Around the Garden
Water, water, water. Plants need about an inch of water a week, and so far this summer, they haven't been getting it from Mother Nature. Watering in August is critical for two reasons: First, the summer heat dries the soil out quickly - a 90 degree summer day can bake about 2 inches of moisture from the soil surface. Second, August is the time when woody plants that bloom in the spring (azaleas, rhododendrons, dogwood, lilac, pieris and others) set their buds for next spring's blossoms. If they don't get the moisture they need, they may look OK now, but not bloom very well next spring.
Slow, deep watering is better than frequent shallow watering because it encourages a plant's root system to develop. That root system will help protect it from future droughts and winter damage. Early morning is the best time to water. It helps plants to store water for the day's heat. Morning watering also helps prevent fungal problems form developing. Of course, if you come home form work to find plants wilted, it's better to water them than to have them continue to be stressed by lack of water. But in such cases, water at the base of the plant as much as possible, keeping water off the leaves.
Going on vacation? Move your potted plants out of direct sunlight so they won't need to be watered so often. Ask a neighbor to check on them and to do some watering if necessary.
If you need to apply insecticides, fungicides or fertilizers, resist the urge to apply them when the temperature is above 85 degrees - you may do more harm than good. Spray only in the early morning or evening, when the temperature is below 80 degrees and plants will have a chance to dry before the temperature reaches 85 degrees. Also, make sure plants are well watered first - don't apply fertilizers or pesticides to plants that are already stressed by lack of water.
There are several reasons to plant this month: summer blooming shrubs and perennials are more widely available when they're in bloom, spring blooming plants may be on sale because they're out of bloom, or you may have spots where you want to replace annuals that died or aren't looking great. Newly planted shrubs and flowers need a little extra help when planted in the dog days of summer. If we're having a particularly hot spell, wait until it passes. Plant in the evening or on a cloudy day when temperatures are cooler - you and the plant will both be happier. Be sure to keep newly planted shrubs and flowers watered well. Even drought tolerant plants need some help until they get established.
Continue to deadhead annuals and perennials (cutting or pinching off dead flowers) for a loner bloom.
Are your irises and daylilies getting too crowded? Late August is an ideal time to dig up and divide both plants. Dig up daylilies with a spading fork, wash excess dirt off the roots with a strong stream of water, and pull the roots apart. Replant as soon as possible. Try interplanting them with daffodil bulbs for a two-season display. Dig up bearded irises the same way, but cut apart the individual rhizomes with a sharp knife. (Make sure there's at least one growth spot on each rhizome). Discard any parts that are soft or show signs of iris borer. Plant iris high - the rhizomes should be at or slightly above the surface of the ground.
Now's a good time to take stock of your summer perennial garden. Note any plants that don't quite work where they are because they are taller, shorter, bushier or a different color than you thought they'd be. As a general rule, move spring bloomers in the fall and fall bloomers when they come up in the spring. Even if you're not ready to move them now, make notes while their appearance is fresh in your mind. Also note any of those floppy plants you wish you'd put plant supports around when you still could. The best time to install plant supports is when plants are small enough that you don't think they're going to need support.
Your Edible Garden
Late August is a great time to plant vegetables that like cool weather, like peas, lettuce, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale and oriental greens.
Plant some fresh basil plants to take you through the fall, especially if yours are beginning to get woody or have flowered. If your basil hasn't flowered yet, keep pinching off the flowers. Once herbs flower, the flavor of their leaves tends to change, becoming bitter or tasteless.