August Gardening Advice 2017
This summer has been almost ideal for vegetable gardening. It has been pretty consistently warm, but not too hot. Ann Arbor only officially hit 90 degrees once in July (though we came close once or twice more). The high, but not too high, temps really have produced some serious tomato, pepper, eggplant and bean plants in my garden, though the flea beetles are trying their best to keep me from getting any eggplant this year. I need to do a better job of keeping them under control – I really love fresh eggplant!
This month, the Japanese beetles, grasshoppers, earwigs, cutworms, and tomato hornworms will be trying to consume all your hard work – don’t let them!
- The Japanese beetles I was fighting last month are still the biggest issue this month, and from what I hear from customers, I’m not alone. They have been helping themselves to everything in my vegetable and flower gardens. So my morning routine is to get up, go out to the garden and knock them off the plants into a bucket of soapy water before heading to the store. There aren’t a lot of other really effective organic options, and I am not interested in spraying my vegetable garden with lots of synthetic chemicals, so the soapy water is going to have to do the trick. I’m also not generally using sprays in the flower garden, because my flowers are covered with honeybees and bumblebees, and many of the sprays available are very toxic to these and other beneficials, like the lovely dragonflies and damselflies flitting through my gardens. If you must use a spray, do it in the evening, when the bees have gone to bed, and don’t spray so much that it’s dripping off the leaves – be sure to read the label.
- Keeping things watered has been one of our biggest challenges so far this summer, and that’s not likely to change this month. This goes for containers even more than in-ground gardens. All this sunshine dries things out quickly, so be sure to provide water to your containers regularly, and don’t forget to fertilize too. When you are watering containers regularly, you can be flushing out fertilizer, so you should be adding it back in to keep your plants growing and producing. If you’re heading out of town for vacation this month, find a friend or neighbor who can be relied on to keep things watered for you, or find a different solution, if you don’t want to come home to fried plants! I rely on an automatic watering system for my containers outside, and it’s a life-saver (for my plants, that is). Come talk to us at the store about the options we have available.
Even though it’s been pretty dry, we’ve had quite a bit of humidity, which has made powdery mildew really happy. While I haven’t seen any signs of it in my vegetable garden, the Bee Balm in my flower beds has been hit pretty hard by it. My solution to that has been to cut out as much of the affected flower stalks as I can, and spray the rest of the plants with Espoma Garden Fungicide. And while I have been trying to keep the diseases at bay in my vegetable garden, my tomatoes are starting to show signs of something that I have not yet identified, so they’ll be getting the same treatment for now. Cucumber downy mildew is also making its way around gardens in Southeast Michigan. Keep an eye out for these and signs of other diseases, and keep up the fungicide spraying, especially in your veggie garden. If you let the diseases get out of control, you can lose out on lots of great produce.
- In addition to spraying, removing any leaves, stems and fruit showing signs of disease, as soon as possible, will help slow down the progression of the disease. Keeping insects under control is also helpful, as they carry diseases from plant to plant as they search for the best-tasting meal.
- The best part of August is that we get to harvest so much great stuff to eat from our veggie gardens! Garlic should be finished or close to finished harvesting, and onions should be right behind. Zucchini is hot-and-heavy this month, along with tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and beans. Kale is still going strong, and lots of herbs should be available for picking. I had a bumper crop of dill this year – none of which I planted this year! It was all “volunteer” from last year’s plants. As it started coming up, I decided to let it go, and boy did it go! I really do wish I had time for pickling. My favorite dill “pickle” is actually green beans, or “dilly beans.” It’s a favorite of most of my family, and is one of the things that always takes me back to childhood summers. With the green beans coming in from my garden, maybe I can find some time to at least make a few jars.
- Now that my garlic is out of the garden, it’s time to fill in the space they were occupying with plants that I can be harvesting late this month and into the fall. August is a great time to plant beets, radishes, lettuces, spinach, Swiss chard, kale, and peas for harvest into the early fall. Check your seed packet for the “days to maturity” to determine how late you can plant and still harvest before frost sets in. To figure out your safe planting timeframe, just count backwards from your average first date of frost (usually around October 1st the Chelsea/Manchester/Ann Arbor area).
- A lack of water and higher temperatures are hard on our feathered friends, so be sure to keep your bird baths cleaned and filled. If you are feeding hummingbirds (if not, why not? – They are such fun to watch!), keep their feeders cleaned out and filled weekly.