The long hot days of August are not my favorite for doing a lot of work in the garden! But I sure enjoy eating all the good things out there! Once I take care of the harvesting, watering, and minimal maintenance, off I go to a shady corner with seed catalogs to plan the cool season garden, which is just around the corner! Here’s what to do in the garden in August:
Peppers, tomatoes, squash, green beans and other warm season veggies should be producing like crazy as long as they get adequate water and temperatures don’t get too hot. When temperatures rise above 85-90 degrees, don’t be surprised if your tomatoes stop setting fruit (pollen becomes unviable). To keep your plants producing and have lots of fresh veggies for those summer barbecues, follow these harvesting tips:
- Harvest early in the morning while the temperatures are still cool and veggies have a high moisture content.
- Keep harvest basket in the shade and bring inside as soon as possible.
- For green beans, use two hands to harvest, one to hold the plant and one to pull off the bean to avoid breaking off part of the plant.
- For cucumbers and other squash, eggplant, and peppers, use a clippers to cut the fruit from the vine or plant. Pulling the fruit off may break or damage the plant.
- Never leave over ripe fruits on the vine or plant as this signals the plant to stop producing.
- Store your harvest properly. Click here to see the University of California’s publication on which fruits and veggies should be stored in the refrigerator or at room temperature.
- Preserve your harvest by freezing or canning. For canning advice see Safe Methods of Canning Vegetables publication by the University of California.
Keeping plants adequately watered is the biggest challenge in August, especially during this terrible drought. Here are some tips to help with watering:
- Check for malfunctioning sprinklers and drip emitters. Broken sprinkler heads and emitters can result in dead plants!
- Install a new back up battery in your timer, especially if you are leaving on vacation. It’s also a good idea to ask a neighbor to check on your garden in case there is an irrigation malfunction while you’re gone.
- If you have cut back on watering during the drought, be sure to water trees deeply once or twice a month. Trees are big investments and you wouldn’t want to lose them. Rather than turn on the whole sprinkler system, use an old fashioned sprinkler nozzle attached to a hose or soaker hoses attached to a hose placed around the drip line of the tree. Soaker hoses are especially good as they release water very slowly, allowing it to soak in deeply without runoff.
- Build or refresh watering basins, especially on slopes. Watering basins trap water at the root zone where it’s needed. Build them out of soil, rocks, wood, or cement blocks. Make a circular basin just outside the drip line of the plant/tree so that water applied in the basin stays in the root zone.
- Double pot potted plants to insulate the soil and slow loss of soil moisture. Double potting involves dropping the pot a plant is planted in into a larger pot.
Planning for a Drought Tolerant Garden
August is not a good month to convert your garden to drought tolerant plants. Wait until the cooler weather of fall. But now is a great time to plan a lower water use garden. Contact a landscape designer or architect now so that your plans are ready when the weather conditions are good for planting. If you want to do it yourself, do your research on water thrifty plants. Some websites that have good information are: the Metropolitan Water District’s Be Waterwise.com, or your water district’s website. Here’s a link to my water district’s (Irvine Ranch Water District) Rightscape Resources.
Planning Your Cool Season Garden
It’s time to start planning your cool season garden! Hard to believe, especially on a hot day in August. If you want to start cool season veggies and flowers from seed, mid August is the time to start them indoors so they’ll be ready to go out in the garden in October. For more info, see my post on ‘Time to Start Cool Season Seeds’.
Have a great summer!