Check with your local Quality Co-op for seed and/or Bonnie transplants for your fall garden.
As soon as plants have passed their prime, pull them out and replant. Put the old plants into your compost pile, then aerate the soil and replenish nutrients by forking in some compost and a little balanced fertilizer such as 8-8-8.
Hold off on planting shrubs and trees. The best time to plant woodies and perennials in Southeast Zones 7 and 8 is later in the fall or early winter.
During August, you can plant most cole crops, kale, lettuce, summer and winter squash, turnips, rutabagas, carrots, cucumbers and bush/pole beans, for fall harvest. Keep in mind, summer squash and cucumbers are very insect- and disease-prone during late summer and fall.
It is not too late to set out another planting of many warm-season annuals such as marigolds, zinnias and periwinkles. They will require extra attention for the first few weeks, but should provide you with color during late September, October and even November.
By the end of August, select potted plants of perennials such as Autumn Asters (Aster oblongifolius) or ornamental salvias for excellent fall color. These will become permanent occupants of the flower bed, capable of extended color for several years.
Begin seeding new lawns or bare spots in established lawns in late August or, preferably, September. Fall is the best time to repair or start a new lawn.
Sow seeds of snapdragons, dianthus, pansies, calendulas and other cool-season flowers in flats or in well-prepared areas of the garden for planting outside during mid-to-late fall.
Gloxinia seeds planted now will begin to bloom by Christmas, and they will come into full bloom during February, March and April. Try a packet of hybrid seeds from a gloxinia specialist. Directions for their care will be on the packet.
Plant spring wildflowers designated for southeastern United States. They must germinate in late summer or early fall, develop good root systems and be ready to grow in spring when the weather warms. Plant seed in well-prepared soil, half-inch deep and water thoroughly.
Have soil tested for fall fertilization requirements if it has been three years or more since the last analysis.
Don’t fertilize or heavily prune trees or shrubs until late fall or winter. Both of these stimulate growth, setting your plants up for stress and possible death when temperatures drop.
Feed strawberries with a fertilizer rich in nitrogen.
Sidedress peppers and eggplants.
Lightly prune summer-blooming shrubs.
You can still root hardwood cuttings of your favorite shrubs and trees.
Now’s the time to do one last shearing of the evergreen hedges. Growth will be tapering off soon, and they probably won’t need attention again until next spring. Don’t prune them in fall so you don’t risk encouraging new tip growth that’s susceptible to browning when the temperatures dip below freezing.
Prune dead or diseased wood from trees and shrubs.
Prune and destroy blackberry canes that bore fruit this year. They will not produce fruit again and could harbor insects or disease.
Trim faded flowers on crape myrtles to encourage later rebloom.
A late-summer pruning of rosebushes can be beneficial. Prune dead canes and any weak, brushy growth. Cut back tall, vigorous bushes to about 30 inches. After pruning, apply fertilizer and water thoroughly. If a preventive disease-control program has been maintained, your rose bushes should be ready to provide an excellent crop of flowers this fall.
The first part of this month may be the hottest of the year and that is when your lawn and garden may show the most stress. Water in the early morning to minimize water loss from evaporation and to allow the sun to dry leaves before disease can set in.
Wet the soil to a minimum depth of 4-6 inches or about 1 inch of water per week. Frequent, inadequate irrigation encourages shallow rooting and may predispose plants to increased disease and greater susceptibility to stress injury. Watering deeply and less frequently improves growth and increases water conservation.
To help monitor irrigation, install timers and place a rain gauge or empty cans (tuna or cat food cans work well) under the sprinkler.
Successful germination of newly seeded lawns depends on ample moisture at the soil surface. Keep the seeded area moist until the seed emerges. The seedlings need frequent, gentle watering until they are one-half to 1-inch tall. When climatic conditions allow, reduce watering to several times a week at a depth of 1-2 inches. Decrease frequency and increase depth of watering as seedlings mature.
If your grass is dry, do not mow until you have watered or until it rains. Mowing a dry lawn will further stress the turf and expose it to the drying effects of the wind and sun.
Tropical plants such as various elephant ears/caladiums, bananas and gingers require plenty of water at this time of year if they are to remain lush and active until fall. Fertilize with 21-0-0 at the rate of one-third to one-half pound per 100 square feet of bed area, and water thoroughly.
Don’t allow plants with green fruit or berries to suffer from lack of moisture.
Going on vacation? Get a neighbor or hire someone to water or rig up a timer and sprinkler (or drip-irrigation system) for while you’re away. In-ground plants usually can tolerate a week without water, but your baskets and pots can die with just a few days without water in summer.
Always read the label before using chemicals.
Luscious little seedlings in your fall garden will attract a long list of aggressive pests, including slugs, cabbageworms, army worms and ever-voracious grasshoppers. Damage from all of these pests (and more) can be prevented by using slug and snail bait approved for use around edibles and covering seedlings with row covers the day they go into the garden. Use a summer-weight insect barrier row cover that retains little heat, or make your own by sewing or pinning two pieces of wedding net (tulle) into a long, wide shroud. Hold the row cover above the plants with stakes or hoops, and be prepared to raise its height as the plants grow.
Squash vine borers are very active this month. Remove affected plants to avoid the larvae pupating in the soil.
Watch for wasps’ nests in the eaves of buildings, shrubs, trees and in the ground.
Kill or remove poison ivy from your property before it goes to seed.
Hand prune and destroy bagworms, fall webworms and tent caterpillars.
Scout for budworms on annual flowers, scale on euonymus and magnolia, spider mites on evergreens and lace bugs on azaleas. Check with your local Co-op for remedies.
Pull any straggler weeds that pop up in beds and lawns to ensure a weed-free autumn.
Picking flowers frequently encourages most annuals and perennials to flower even more abundantly.
Pick beans, tomatoes, peppers and squash often to encourage more production.
It is time to divide spring-flowering perennials such as iris, cannas, day lilies, violets, liriope and ajuga.
Underwriters Laboratories Inc. reports that each year lawn mower accidents send over 80,000 people to the emergency room. Let your mower cool off before putting fuel in it, don’t wear sandals or short pants when you mow, don’t allow children to ride on a mower while you mow, and keep children and pets away while you’re mowing.
Wear safety goggles when using all portable power tools such as trimmers, blowers, chain saws, etc.
Stake tall plants that might blow over during a storm.
Summer-planted crops typically require longer to mature than spring-planted crops (shorter days and cooler air temperatures slow plant growth). Using the days-to-maturity figure on the seed packet, add an extra 14 days as a low-light factor. This will give the summer-planting date. On average, August has 14 hours of daylight, September has 12 and October has only 11 (www.timeanddate.com).
When planting in the heat of summer, it’s important to keep the soil surface consistently moist. If it dries out, newly sprouted seeds may die and you will need to start over. As a general rule, seeds planted outdoors in late summer should be sown twice as deep as in the spring. Also, most cool-weather plants will not germinate well if soil temperatures rise over 80 degrees. Shade netting or the natural shade from a trellis or tall plant can be used to create a relatively cool location for seeding a second crop.
Turn established compost piles. If you made piles last fall or in the early spring, check to see if they are ready to spread for fall planting. Compost is ready when the composted materials have broken down enough that you can’t readily recognize what they are made from.
Make your selections and place orders for spring-flowering bulbs now so they will arrive in time for planting in October and November.
Spade or till soil for fall bulb planting; add a moderate amount of fertilizer.
Keep your cutting tools sharpened and in good repair.
Begin stocking up gardening supplies before they are removed for the season from retailers’ shelves. Pots, potting mixes, hoses, fertilizers and other products may be harder to find later in the season.
If any patches of annual flowers have petered out in the heat or been eaten by bugs or animals, hide the bare spot by moving a flower pot over the space. This also works in spots where plants such as bleeding hearts, Virginia bluebells and spring bulbs go dormant in summer.
Continue to mow the lawn at the 3-inch level until the first of September.
Start harvesting onions for winter keeping after the tops have turned brown.
Harvest watermelon when the underside ground spot turns from whitish to creamy yellow; the tendril closest to the melon turns brown and shrivels; the rind loses its gloss and looks dull; and the melon produces a dull thud rather than a ringing sound when thumped.
Pears are best ripened off the tree. Harvest pears as soon as color changes, usually from a dark green to a lighter green, and when the fruit is easily twisted and removed from the spur.
Keep fresh water in your bird baths and feed in your birdfeeders.