Update for August, 2017: This is turning into quite a warm little summer, especially if you’re one of my Oregon readers where temps have already hit triple digits. Up here near Seattle it’s been pleasant bordering on hot, with temps hovering around 75 to 85 for most of July. (Yes, there are about 5 weeks in Seattle when the weather is perfect. But the rest of the year it rains. You’d hate it. Don’t move here.)
I expect these mostly warm, rainless days to continue in August. Expect more of the same. Ripening will continue, tomatoes and peppers and eggplants will do well. Do make sure you keep your garden properly watered – I don’t think a drop of rain fell in my garden last month.
Sometime around mid August something about the angle of the sun, or the speed at which the days shorten, or the smell of the air will change, and if you let the deep part of your squirrel brain alert you, you will know that summer has just signed her deed over to fall. She’ll have a while yet before she actually moves out, but ownership will have been transferred.
From that point on, the clock is ticking. All our lovely, lush summer crops and all our long, lazy nights are but dead men walking. You might start to feel an urgency, the gut feeling that it’s time to hurry and put more jars of tomatoes or peaches in the basement. Or you might feel a strange twinge of sadness as you hover over your pole beans and see pre-echoes of their inevitable decline in the overflowing harvesting basket at your side.
When this realization hits you – that, despite the 85 degree sun shining down on your shoulders, fall has won and is marching towards you in quick-step – it’s best to celebrate by picking something from the garden and eating it.
Savor the moment, as they say. It won’t last for long.
Printable At-A-Glance Grow-Guide!
If you like your Gardening To Lists simple and direct, you’re in luck! Just click the image below to download the August At-A-Glance Grow Guide as a printable PDF.
Or, continue reading below for the full details on everything to do in your garden this month.
Plan and Purchase
Garlic should be ordered now for planting in late September/early October. Don’t wait too long – they do sell out. I like hardneck varieties, which don’t store quite as well as braidable softnecks, but give you one layer of much larger cloves. Music is my favorite.
If you have a minute, this is a good time to plan for any perennial purchases, too. Fruit trees and bushes that go in the ground in late fall have an entire winter to settle in before spring growth. Raintree is a great local nursery for well-adapted fruits. They have the classics like apples and raspberries and plums, and also stock weird stuff like honeyberry, aronia and goji.
August is when the bulk of the harvest of beans, squash, tomatoes and the like comes on . In between canning and pickling, think about what you have enough of, what you are overwhelmed by, and what you really wish you had more of. Write this info down, along with how much of each thing you are currently growing. That info will come in handy when you plan next year’s garden.
Start Indoors/In A Pot
My seed-starting lights are off until next spring. It’s too late to start long-maturing cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, etc. (though good nurseries will have appropriate season starts in now to purchase if you need.)
Fast maturing greens like lettuce and spinach, and the Asian coles like pak choi can be started now, but it’s easier at this time of year to direct seed.
Sow Directly Outside
- Salad greens – August is a great month to direct sow fall greens. Sow lettuces and any of the fall greens like arugula, mache, or spinach at any time this month. Be diligent about watering the emerging seedlings. In general it’s better to water deep and less often, but until baby plants get some root under them and have a few true leaves, plan on at least a daily sprinkle.
- Euro greens – Sow your sophisticated bitter greens like frisee, escarole, radicchio and endive now too. They taste best when they mature in the cool days of September.
- Kale – Sow now and your plants won’t be big going into winter, but they’ll give you something to pick from. I’d sow relatively thickly and plan on eating the thinnings.
- Chard – same as kale. If you so now, plan for teenage size plants and space accordingly. If fall is particularly mild and sunny, just pull out and eat every other plant as you need the room.
- Radishes – gotta love anything that can be ready to pick from seeding in 3 or 4 weeks. Radishes sown towards the mid/end of August will mature as the days are cooling off and will hold in the ground as tasty mild radishes for quite awhile. If you are sowing the winter hardy varieties like Black Spanish or Daikon-style radishes, those take a lot longer to mature and should go in ASAP.
- Green Onions: I’m always surprised how long green onions take to mature, but a sowing now should give you some in fall. If they go in late, you’ll have a very early spring scallion crop.
- Asian Brassicas: early August is a great time to seed all kinds of fast maturing Asian brassicas: Chinese cabbage, bok choy, Chinese mustard greens, mizuna, tatsoi, etc. My nursery carries seed from Kitazawa Seed, a specialty Asian vegetable seed company, and the variety of Asian greens is pretty amazing. Check it out.
- Root crops: hopefully you’ve already seeded beets, carrots, parsnips, rutabagas and turnips. If you haven’t and you have room, it can’t hurt to throw some seed down and see what you get. Even if a late sowing doesn’t give you much of a fall harvest, if your root crops overwinter, you may get a nice, very early spring crop.
- Legumes: sow out your fall peas and favas this month.
Ok, here’s the big job: get those transplants you started in late June and early July in the ground as soon as possible. Hopefully they are 4-6 weeks old now, nicely filling out their pots, but not rootbound.
Remember to water your transplants! If it’s hot and sunny, cover them with shade cloth or prop a cardboard box lid up on wooden posts over them to protect them from too hard of sun after the transplant. If you didn’t start seedlings last month or in June, your local nursery may be carrying starts to purchase.
- Broccoli and Sprouting Broccoli
- Brussels Sprouts
- Chinese Cabbage
- Green Onions
- Mustard Greens
- Swiss Chard
Pretty much everything except the fall root crops, winter squash and some of the fall/winter brassicas (for me, brussels sprouts are fall/winter only) are ready. August is A-to-Z prime time in the garden.
- Peas – you may have another few weeks on peas, depending on what variety you planted, but August is typically when they collapse and the vines go brown and crispy.
- Potatoes – summer new potatoes! A lovely thing!
- Salad greens
- Zucchini and other summer squash
- Strawberries – everbearing types are still chunking along.
- Cherries – wrapping up now.
- Apple – the earliest apples should start maturing in late August. A few of my apples are already tasting decent. Still tart but no longer puckeringly astringent.
- Pear & Asian Pear – just like apples – look for the earliest varieties to be ready soon.
- Asian plums – as of 2017 my huge harvest is happening late July/early August
- European plums – the earliest will be ready this month, my main crop will come on in early September
August is always when I most feel torn between maintaining the outside stuff, bringing it all inside to preserve, and just saying “screw this, I’m going to the beach.”
If you have a large garden, just keeping up on the picking, eating, and preserving can seem like an unending task right now. If you can, try to just do a little bit every day.
- Weed, water, mulch. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Pay extra close attention to the water needs of anything fruiting (cucumbers, beans, peppers, etc.), plus any transplants and seedlings coming up for the fall and winter garden.
- Harvest, pick, gather. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Try to eat your garden goodness fresh when you can!
- Pickle, freeze, ferment, can. Repeat, repeat, repeat. What you can’t eat fresh, preserve for leaner months.
- Cure onions – Depending on variety you might be curing onions this month. Knock down onion tops when most fall over on their own, then dry in a breezy place out of direct sun.
- Pinch out climbing beans – if you don’t want your beans to be a big mass of tangles, pinch their growing tips out when they hit the top of their supports. I never do this.
- Train tomatoes – I train my indeterminate tomatoes to single or double cordons around twine. This keeps them in line and manageable, but it does require that I regularly pinch out the sideshoots that want to grow out. (Related: How I train and prune indeterminate tomatoes – Patreon)
- Train cucumbers – You can get fancy and pinch out side growth, or pinch out main growth, or pinch off growth two leaves past the fruit. I don’t know, I just shove mine back into the trellis and periodically cut off any huge leaves that are shading the plant, or chop some unfruitful parts of the vine off if they get way, way out of control. (Related: Building A Cucumber Trellis – Patreon)
- Side dress heavy feeders – Do this if you notice your plant growth slowing or leaf color lightening. Anything that is working hard for you over a long time should be fed. I side dressed everything in my garden with a balanced organic fertilizer about a week ago. Super leafy things (think spinach or basil) that like higher nitrogen can get the occasional fertigation with fish emulsion or, if you’re up for it, diluted pee. (Related: How to Use Pee In Your Garden and Gravity Fed Pee Fertigation System – Patreon.)
- Net ripening fruit against birds if that’s a problem for you. Or get cats. I have decided bird netting is spun from filaments of hatred, bound together with evil. I’ll take my chances with the birds.
- Summer prune soft fruit and espaliered/heavily-managed tree fruit.
- Tie in canefruit as necessary.
- Trap or apply Sluggo regularly for slug and snail control if necessary.
- Handpick or apply BT for cabbage moth control if necessary.
How’s this month of insane harvesting going for you?