August is generally a month to harvest, not plant, crops although it’s not too late to put in one last crop of lettuce, as well as spinach, chard, and kale for fall picking. It’s also a good time to plant perennials in pots to add late-season color to the garden. Check with your local garden store or perennial nursery to see what’s in bloom.
Or visit some of Vermont’s perennial display gardens for ideas for plants that will flower in August and into the fall. You can pick up a free brochure listing many of these gardens at many local chambers of commerce. Or order the brochure from the Vermont Department of Agriculture, Food and Markets’ Website at http://www.state.vt.us/agric/brochures.htm. Click on “Vermont Perennial & Herb Display Gardens Open to the Public,” then fill out the online form.
Once your peas and other early garden crops have stopped production, remove them from the garden. Getting these plants out of your way makes it easier for you to care for remaining vegetables and reduces the chance for diseases to get going on aging foliage. It also opens up space for planting later-producing crops or cover crops that need an early start if they are to put on significant growth before frost, such as oats.
If you’ve been trying to grow “the great pumpkin” for an end-of-the-summer fair or Halloween, early August is the time to do some pruning and fertilizing. Start by taking off all but one or two pumpkins from the vine. Pinch the ends off the vines to encourage the development of the fruit already set on the vines.
Apply liberal amounts of composted cow manure or a diluted plant fertilizer around the base of the plant. Keep the area free from weeds to prevent competition for nutrients and moisture. Mulching with straw or leaves can help. You also may want to spray the foliage with an appropriate fungicide to prevent mildew from reducing the vigor of the plant.
Raccoons can be a problem in sweet corn. They seem to know, even before you do when the corn is ready to pick. The only surefire way to keep them out is to use an electric fence.
The first strand should be six inches above ground level, the second about 16 inches high. Just make sure no weeds or grass touch the wire fence as it will short out the charge and allow the raccoons to get into the corn.
In late August repair problem area in your lawn. Many brown spots are not the result of summer dormancy due to drought but rather injury caused by white grubs. Talk to the experts at your local garden center for advice on proper treatment. This is also the time to reseed severely injured areas, keeping newly seeded lawns moist and mulched.
After all this work, you’re probably ready for a day away. Why not plan a trip to Montreal where you can visit both the Montreal Botanic Gardens and Mosaiculture International Montreal 2001, a stunning display of floral mosaics located in the Old Port district, next to Old Montreal. Floral mosaics are two- and three-dimensional art and sculptures made of living plants.
Many countries are represented this year with excellent descriptions in both French and English by each of the exhibits to explain what is portrayed and the inspiration behind the exhibit. Two-dimensional designs are often seen in formal gardens, especially in Europe, but 3-D sculptures are rare.
Other activities for August: on a handle donate surplus vegetables to your local food shelter; remove blackberry and raspberry canes that have fruited; visit a pick-your-own blueberry farm.
VISITING PERENNIAL GARDENS AND OTHER AUGUST GARDENING TIPS
By Dr. Leonard Perry and Lisa Halvorsen n
Extension Nursery and Greenhouse Crops Specialist
University of Vermont