July and August Stepping Stones

Throughout July and August

Amend the Soil

Refresh the garden with organic foliar spray if desired and/or needed. Add organic soil amendments to high water-use vegetable and flower beds (don’t forget the rose bed!). Insure that any organic amendments have not been contaminated with persistent synthetic chemicals (see Maintenance, Composting, Killer Compost).

Appropriate Plants Fall Vegetable Planting

Gardening is all about thinking ahead, months in advance. As hot as it is outside in July and August, this is the time to seed fall vegetables. Yes, the cool season vegetables and a few warm season veggies. July and August mirrors spring planting. Prepare and amend the soil for planting your fall crops. Several cool season vegetables can be started as early as the end of August. Because soil temperatures are warmer than the ideal, provide a shade cover, or cover the seeds with a little extra layer of soil than you would in the spring, then cover with a board until the seedlings come to the surface. Remove the board.

The average date of the first frost (ADFF) is around October 20th. To time fall vegetable plantings correctly, take out a calendar and count back the number of weeks for the vegetables you’d like to harvest. Mark on the calendar the date for planting that vegetable; then do it when the week rolls around. Most of these vegetables have a planting window of 2 –4 weeks for warm season vegetables.

  • Fourteen to sixteen weeks before the average date of the first frost (ADFF) you can start seeding beans, cantaloupe, peppers, Irish potatoes, spinach, and watermelon.
  • At 12 – 14 weeks before ADFF, plant Chinese cabbage, carrots, sweet corn, kolrhabi, swiss chard, eggplant, okra, pumpkin, squash and tomatoes plants.
  • At 12 weeks ADFF, begin seed planting of English peas and turnip greens and roots.
  • At 10 weeks before the ADFF, begin planting broccoli, Brussel sprouts, beans, beets, collards, cucumbers, lettuce, mustard, and onion seeds or sets.
  • At one to eight weeks before ADFF, you can plant radish seeds.
  • 6 weeks before ADFF, plant garlic.
  • Plant spinach, English peas, and turnips 8 - 10 weeks ADFF.

If you dally beyond August 15th, it wil be too late for many warm season selections to mature. Remember, even though the sun is unmercifully hot, the days are getting shorter and everything dramatically cools down after Labor Day. If you’ve missed the seed planting time, watch for vegetables already started in the nurseries to transplant.

Maintenance

Continue daily observation of the garden in early morning light and when the sun lowers on the horizon. Are any plants struggling or infested? Is your garden under stress? Has the soil been amended for organic content and drainage to reduce plant stress? Practice the principles of integrated pest management and apply the least harmful solution first. Be sure to note any problems in your garden journal. Take notes, take pictures. Try to discover the cause of the problem, and correct it.

Spring planted plants should be well on their way to establishing. Even though it is hotter and drier outside, be careful not to over-water. During evening tours of the landscape, note any wilting plants. If in the morning they are still wilted, by all means water them. In the home landscape, many plants die of over-watering. If you have a tendency to over-water, compensate for this by amending the soil for good drainage, however, it is best to just change your watering habits.

Harvest vegetables and herbs. You’ve worked hard for them, enjoy them and share the bounty with others.

Reduce daytime work-stress by deadheading those higher maintenance flowers in the evening hours.

I’m not a rose specialist, but I’ve found it helpful to prune back the roses before Sept. 15th, especially if I haven’t noticed new rose buds forming. My trees have grown up and shaded the rose bed, so I don’t get many fall blooms, just foliage. Last summer, I hadn’t taken the time to keep them trim, and September passed before I knew it. It was too late to trim back in October when I had time. But when our 8+ inches of snow came November 2nd, the wind and snow made a terrible tangled mess of both the grandifloras and climbers. Many canes were damaged and I was forced to severely prune them back in November after the melt. Keeping the roses trim and shaped accomplishes two things: avoiding snow damage in fall and winter, and avoiding early rose pruning in spring, when we are so tempted to do so.

Winter weeds could start to germinate as early at the end of August. To prevent this, apply corn gluten meal at that time, and again in 3 weeks for another crop of weeds. Corn gluten meal will not kill weeds that have already germinated and established, but it is a good organic amendment. Corn gluten meal does not kill plants that spread by rhizomes and stolons. Corn gluten meal does not kill bindweed. As in the spring, do not apply this to any area to be seeded or re-seeded for at least 3 weeks prior to seeding.

With proper attention, the compost pile should have decomposed into compost, towards the bottom of the pile. Clean it out and use to replenish fall vegetable or other beds.

Extras

Plan and Design

Locate a quite corner of the garden and add a garden bench. Take some time and use it for reflection.

If contemplating a new bed for fall planting, begin preparing the soil now. The more I garden and learn about gardening, soil preparation for the type of plants you will plant is a huge factor in success and quick establishment. But start garden work early in the day and finish by eleven; it’ll probably be hot by then. Take plenty of water breaks – limiting water in the xeriscape refers only to the plants, not the gardeners.

If planning on starting a new bed in a Bermuda grass or very weedy area, now is the time to spray with Roundup, or other glyphosate. The Bermuda grass and weeds need to be actively growing for the best kill. If it’s been dry, consider watering the area several days before spraying. A second application is needed for Bermuda grass and other weedy areas as well.

Turf

Install warm season turf (Bermuda or buffalo, blue grama grass) before September for better root development. Warm season turf grasses need the warmer temperatures for growth.

Appropriate Plants

The bulb catalogs are beginning to stack up. Thinking six months+ ahead, it’s time to order spring blooming bulbs: daffodils, tulips, crocus, hyacinth, alliums, galanthus (the snowdrops), muscari, puschkinia, scilla, are typical for our area. Toss a few catalogs in the car for reading during a vacation. Circle the “must haves” and order them as soon as you get back into town. Order early; order often. Tip of the month: don’t wait until September, all the best ones will be taken.

For more information about bulbs, tubers, corms and rhizomes, there are many resources to turn to. My favorite book on the subject is Naturalizing Bulbs, by Rob Proctor. Rob gardens in Denver, Colorado and provides advice related to our soils and climate. His book contains the best information I’ve read on which tulip classifications do best as repeat performers (the Darwin Hybrids). In addition to bulb books, the bulb catalogs offer a wealth of information, particularly, White Flower Farm, The Bulb Book. My Fall, 2001 edition is becoming dog-eared from use, I’ll never throw it out, it’s so helpful. And you can’t beat Old House Gardens for antique or heirloom bulbs, and McClure & Zimmerman and Roots and Rhizomes for other hard to find varieties.

Maintenance

Clean out an area of the garden that's been neglected in years past if a cooler front sweeps through,

Lazy summer days are made for reading, reading about gardening. Choose a topic you’d like to learn more about, whether it’s propagation, a new plant group, design, the soil, etc, and visit the library or the internet. Continue with the internet gardening course, or start one.

Be a Plant Explorer

While on a family vacation in far off locations, take the time to drop by the local botanic garden, conservatory, state or national park and view the flora native or unique to that area.

Keep it Up

  • Mow the lawn with a mulching mow as needed. Gardeners with buffalo grass turf may decide to skip mowing these two hot months (or not).
  • Check drip irrigation lines for clogged emitters and adequate flow rate. Make changes as needed.
  • Continue to irrigate and weed.
  • Harvest, eat and preserve vegetables and herbs
  • Record garden journal entries
  • Your gardening angel project

Don’t and Oops!

If you didn’t aerate the lawn in the spring time, do not aerate in the summer months. Wait until the temperatures cool, until around September 15th.

Angie Hanna

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