August To-Do List for Gardens and Flowers
Here in Michigan, we’re often blessed with a slight temperature drop in August. This can make it tempting to sit back and enjoy the sun, instead of throwing yourself into all of the frantic preservation work that you’ll see suggested in blogs dedicated to gardening in warmer, more temperate climates.
Sitting back now would be a mistake though. With fall fast approaching, August is the perfect time to start prepping your garden for the off-season. There’s also a lot that can be done to maximize the lifespan of your annuals this month, which is of vital importance if you want to stop everything from looking dead and bare come September!
To help you keep your garden in tip-top shape this August, we’ve put together the following list of important tasks:
1. Deadheading and Pruning
Taking the time to go around, and deadhead all of your annuals can really help to eke out one more round of flowers. The practice of deadheading actually stops your plants from pumping too much energy into the development of new seeds, and most plants will then use their reserves to push out a new set of petals – keeping your garden looking fresh and vibrant for a little while longer.
August is also a good time to deadhead perennials. If you can stop plants like Dianthus, Yarrow or Garden Phlox from seeding, you’ll leave them with bigger energy reserves, and improve their chances of fighting off any surprise cold snaps come fall.
To deadhead, just pinch (or snip) off the stem roughly halfway between dead flowers and the next set of healthy leaves. For bigger plants, like rose bushes, it can be helpful to be a bit more extreme, but make sure you leave enough foliage for the plant to sustain itself in the darker months of the year.
2. Taking cuttings and seeds
August is also the perfect time to gather seeds or cuttings for any of the annuals that you’d like to see again next year. Most plants are just starting to develop seed heads around now, and it’s very little trouble to go round and gather them up in preparation for the spring.
If you want to gather seeds from a plant, refrain from deadheading, and wait for it to develop its seeds. Once you’ve seen the seeds appear – whether they’re embedded in fruit, exploding pods or – it’s time to gather them up and extract them for storage.
If your gathering seeds from something like a sweet pea, a berry bush or an okra plant, you should carefully extract the seed from the fruit using cold water and a fine sieve. If your gathering from a plant with an exploding seed head, you can just wrap the whole thing in a plastic bag and then wait for it to explode so that you can gather the seeds easily.
And once you actually have the seeds, it’s simply a matter of putting them somewhere warm and dry until it’s time to plant them.
3. Adding fertilizer
Chances are that quick-growing summer plants have sapped most of the nutrients from your soil, which makes August the perfect time to re-balance. To achieve this, simply add a good amount of a well-balanced fertilizer to your soil. Compost is another good option, particularly if you’ve been making your own. Just spread thinly and allow your plants to enjoy the nutrient boost.
You can also add an organic mulch to the soil around now. This will help to protect against early frost, and you will also find that the soil is slowly nourished by the decomposing mulch too – effectively killing two birds with one stone.
If you’re growing veg, August is also a great time to feed fruiting plants – like eggplants, peppers or marrows – with a high-potash fertilizer to encourage the development of healthy new veg.
4. Scarifying the lawn
Over the long, hot months of summer, a thick layer of thatch will have been developing between your lawn and the soil. This layer of thatch is made up of all the dead, dry grass stems, and it can stop valuable nutrients from penetrating the soil – making a good round of scarification absolutely essential.
To scarify (or rake) up the thatch, wait until the very end of August, then take a gardening rake and drag it across the lawn, taking care to push down deep and drag out all of that decomposing turf. You can also use a powered scarifier if you have a very large lawn.
Chances are that you’ll be left with something that looks a little bedraggled, but once you’ve gathered up the loose debris and sewn some more grass seed, you’ll have paved the way to a fresher, healthier lawn come the following spring.
5. Dividing and transplanting perennials
Finally, August is a great time to divide and transplant any perennials. The plant will have plenty of reserves at this time of year, and they’ll have plenty of time to recover before the cold months of winter roll in. Harvesting now means that you’ll be well placed to take your offcuts to trade-ins and flower shows too.
For best results, tease out the whole plant with a garden fork and gently divide, then re-pot the transplant as soon as possible to ensure its survival.
If you have any questions about transplants, deadheading or scarification, we’d be more than happy to help. We’re passionate about helping people to get the most out of their gardens, and we have a lot of in-house expertise so just drop us any queries via the contact form on www.kalamazooflorist.com!