Ornamental and edible gardening adventures.

The Gardener's August Calendar


Make time to enjoy the flowers this month by bringing blooms indoors. The best time to do this is in the morning. Dahlias, calla lilies and zinnias make great cut flowers. 

Approximately 3.5 minute read.

It’s time to sow fall crops!

Use any empty space in the veggie garden beds to sow plants for a fall harvest. Not sure what to plant? How about
  • Carrots
  • Beets (tops can be used like chard)
  • Lettuce
  • Arugula
  • Turnips (get sweeter with a little frost)
  • Mustards
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Bok Choy
  • Chard
  • Radish
  • Peas

Think succession sowing for the leafy greens. For more cool-weather crops that can do double duty in the fall, check out these varieties I learned about during my visit to the Veggie Trails in California, U.S.

You can also sow a cover crop

If you do not plan on sowing a fall crop of veggies, consider sowing cover crops to help condition the soil this fall and over the winter. More details here.

Use weeds to ID missing soil nutrients

A few years ago, I interviewed Diane St. John about organic lawn care. She shared how weeds can help you identify what nutrients your lawn needs, but I found myself thinking about how this applies to garden beds, too.

For example, in a garden bed that is just a few years old, I am finding a lot of crabgrass popping up. I started to wonder what this meant, and checked the info Diane had shared. (Looks like I’m short on calcium.)

While weeds can give you an idea of what’s wrong, it’s best to do a soil test to verify what your soil needs before you start adding nutrients on whim.

Keep an eye out for caterpillars! 

Monarch, black swallowtail and spicebush swallowtail butterflies should be laying eggs on host plants now. It's easy to get a bug box and bring them inside, where they will be safe from predators, including birds and wasps.

I have successfully raised several generations of black swallowtail butterflies (which use fennel, dill, parsley, rue and carrot as host plans), as well as spicebush swallowtail caterpillars and monarch caterpillars.

Monarchs are the trickiest to raise indoors, but don't let that scare you! The most important part is keeping their enclosures clean from frass and providing fresh food.

To see how this year’s caterpillars are being raised, be sure to check my Instagram account where I share photos of the caterpillars as they grow.

Provide water for birds

During this hot month, make sure your birdbaths are clean and filled with fresh water. Birds need water, especially in areas that are experiencing drought conditions. Dump stagnant water so mosquitoes do not use it to breed.

Iris care

Irises should be divided every three to five years, or when the clumps start to lack flowers. (There's a helpful article on dividing and transplanting rhizome iris here.)

Irises like to have their roots exposed, and they seem to do well in drier portions of my garden where the rhizome won't be at risk for rotting.

In addition, start trimming back irises to the "stubs" (except for rebloomers) which can prevent iris borers from ruining plants. This is not only a fall chore that you are getting a jump on, but it removes the site where the iris borer moth wants to lay its eggs, which will feed on the rhizome and kill the plant. Been there, done that — unfortunately.

Hydrangea care

If your hydrangeas need pruning, now is the time to act so you won't be cutting off next year's buds. There is a short three-week window to do this in August; after that, the plants will put their energy into creating flower buds for next year. I shared a video on IGTV that explains more — check it out here.

Garden maintenance 

The garden usually needs additional rounds of watering this month due to the heat. The best time to water is in the morning so that the plant's roots has time to absorb the water before it evaporates.

Also, be sure to deadhead flowers regularly to keep plants looking their best.

Garden pests

Keep shaking Japanese beetles into cups of soapy water to get rid of them. The best time to do this is in the morning or early evening hours, when they are not as active.

Have you applied neem oil to your perennial hibiscus? This helps prevent the hibiscus sawfly from eating the leaves. You can also squash the insects when you find them on the leaves.

Elderberries

Elderberries are a great edible fruit that actually grows well underneath my black walnut tree. While I often have to fight the birds for the berries, it is important to remember that they are not safe to eat fresh. The dark purple berries are high in Vitamin C.

To remove them easier from the stem, I freeze them first. There are so many things you can do with elderberries, including wine, syrup, jam and pies.  To learn more about this great plant, click here. (Just as a word of caution — do not eat wild, red elderberries because those are poisonous.)

Get a jump on spring

Now is the time to figure out where you want to plant bulbs for spring blooms. Look at your garden photos from this past spring (really, how was that only four months ago!) to see where you need pops of color.


Remember to get outside and enjoy the flowers! Summer is fleeting — onward!

These chores are based on my garden located in Zone 6b.

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