August 2008
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August Lawn and Garden Maintenance Checklist


In order to calculate the planting date, determine the frost date and count back the number of days to maturity plus 18 days for harvest of the crop. If snap beans mature in 55 days and your frost date is November 15, you should plant on or before September 3.

Complete fall garden planting by direct seeding carrots, beets, kohlrabi, kale and snap beans early this month. Lettuce, spinach, radishes and green onions can be planted later in August and early September. Don’t forget to thin seedlings to appropriate spacing as needed.

Start plants for broccoli, cabbage, collards, kale, cauliflower and onion in a half-shaded area for setting out in September.

Crowded iris plants should be divided now. I know it seems odd to separate and move clumps of plants during the hot time of the year, but bearded iris is the exception. Cut the leaf blades into a small fan shape and reset the divided clumps in a sunny, well-drained location. Plant the rhizomes no deeper than 1 inch. Transplanting now makes sure the roots are established before winter.

Now is also the best time to relocate spider lilies and daffodils while the yellow foliage is still slightly attached.

With energy prices soaring, this is a great time to review what’s shading your home or parts of your yard during the day. The temperature under a tree is definitely cooler and can reduce air conditioning needs by 30 percent or more. Plant deciduous trees on the southwestern and western side of your home. Don’t cause yourself more problems by planting trees too close to your foundation or driveways. Plant trees at least 12 feet (preferably more) away from your home.

Plant a fall crop of garlic.

Later in the month, plant winter-cover crops in vacant spaces around the vegetable garden.

Get the rose garden in shape for fall planting.

Begin dividing perennials. Start with the bearded iris.

Pot up perennial divisions for spring Master Gardener or Garden Club plant sales. Sink the pots into the ground this fall and they’ll be one less chore in the spring.

A few plants (cosmos, zinnia, Mexican sunflower and cleome) can still be sown from seed directly into the flower garden.

Leave some annual flower seeds from this season to self-sow.

Perennial seeds to sow this month: hollyhock, delphinium and stokesia.

August is the time to think about propagating geraniums. Fresh-cut geranium cuttings    have a tendency to rot, but allowing the stem to dry for a few days (don’t leave them in bright sun) will allow the cut end to begin to heal. Transfer rooted plants to larger containers and keep them evenly moist but not wet.

  • If your flowerbed looks empty, transplant hanging baskets into your bed or a larger decorative patio pot.

Continue repotting overgrown houseplants.


Azaleas, rhododendron and other ericaceous (acid-loving) plants need to be fertilized one more time before the end of August using an acid-based soluble fertilizer containing iron.

The two most common reasons for geraniums not blooming prolifically are too little light or too much fertilizer. Too much fertilizer and you will get large, lush green plants and few blooms. With geraniums, it’s better to under-feed than over-feed.

Be sure to fertilize strawberries with nitrogen this month.

Do NOT fertilize shrubs this month.


Cut back the foliage of early bloomers, like hardy geraniums, to revitalize the plants.

Prune blueberry bushes after the harvest.

Late summer is NOT a good time to prune trees and shrubs because pruning will stimulate new growth.  The new growth will not have enough time to harden before it turns cold.  Late January and February are the best times to do major pruning. The exception is lightly pruning summer-flowering shrubs as the flowers fade.

Any dead or diseased wood can be pruned out anytime of the year. Excessive growth on wisteria vines should be stopped to encourage blooms. 

Prune and destroy blackberry canes that bore fruits this year. They will not produce fruit again next year, but they may harbor insect and disease organisms.

Trim and feed hanging baskets to prolong their beauty.


Water is the most limiting factor during the summer. If you want plump, juicy fruit and plentiful vegetables, then plants must receive a good watering once a week.

Monitor garden irrigation systems closely so crops and ornamentals don’t dry out.

Camellias need deep watering to develop flower buds for next winter and spring flowering.

Once a lawn area is seeded, maintaining adequate moisture is critical for success. You might consider a light mulch of wheat straw.


Notice: Pesticides should be used sparingly and use only when needed. Always follow the label directions.

Don’t spray pesticides during the heat of the day. If you must spray, do it in the late evening hours after the temperature drops.


Insect populations are at their highest during the summer. Sucking or piercing-type insects normally reside on the underside of leaves. The leaves will appear speckled because the green chlorophyll has been destroyed in small patches. Since most insecticides are contact killers, it’s very important to spray where the insects are located - on the underside of the leaves.

Spray the following vegetables if insects are observed: broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. Control worms and squash borers or caterpillars on leafy vegetables with Bt., or by hand picking and removal.

For mite control on ornamentals and most vegetables, hose off foliage, spray with miticide if necessary.

    • Watch shrubs for spider mites and lace bugs.

Use recommended herbicide to control poison ivy, honeysuckle, greenbriar, kudzu, trumpet creeper and wisteria if desired.
Continue with rose spraying program.
Continue fungicide program for fruit trees and bunch grapes.

Peach trees need a trunk spray for peach tree borers at the end of August.  
Check apple maggot traps; spray tree if needed.

Control yellow jackets and wasps with traps and lures as necessary. Keep in mind they are beneficial insects and help control pest insects in the home garden.

If white grubs were a problem last year, your lawn should be treated in early August to prevent further injury. Be sure to apply insecticides at the proper rate and follow with at least 1/2 inch of irrigation for best protection.

To keep those cute little bunnies from treating your garden as an all-you-can-eat buffet, put a teaspoon of cayenne pepper and a spot of dish soap into a spray bottle with water. Spray your plants, and the bunnies will dine elsewhere!

Hand prune and destroy bagworms, fall webworms and tent caterpillars.

Although bug zappers sound like a good idea and are low-budget, cheap (though morbid) entertainment on those long summer nights, research has shown the majority of these devices do very little good in reducing the number of bothersome insect pests. In fact, they

kill many more beneficial and non-biting insects than biting ones. A study in Delaware showed less than a quarter of one percent or only 31 out of 14,000 insects killed were biting insects.

Remove any diseased foliage now, so it doesn’t get lost in the fall leaves.


Write and draw in your garden journal.

Harvest vegetables as they ripen; overripe fruit on a plant will prevent the smaller fruit from developing.

Tomatoes, bell peppers, lima beans and snap beans may stop producing fruit for a short time during the summer. When the temperature soars above 95 degrees, pollen is killed and the stigma (female receptacle for the pollen) dries up. This is only a temporary set back. Do not pull up the plants. They will start producing fruit again when the temperature falls.

All (green) bell peppers will turn or change color if you let them ripen on the plant longer. Riper peppers are sweeter, more flavorful and softer than green peppers.

Hot peppers develop the most "heat" during dry, sunny weather. This is because capsaicin develops best under hot, dry, sunny conditions.

The end of July/first of August is the best time to start tomato plants for the fall. Remove a few suckers from the healthiest tomato plants in your garden, dip the ends in rooting hormone and stick them in a well-watered part of the garden.

Harvest watermelon when several factors indicate ripeness: 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 appears dull; and the melon yields a dull thud sound rather than a ringing sound when thumped.

Pick herbs for fresh use and for drying. Harvesting will keep them growing longer.

Start saving seeds and taking cuttings.

Order spring bulbs for planting and forcing.

Check that your mulch hasn’t decomposed and spread a mid-season layer of compost or manure if needed.

Take pictures of your garden at its peak. Take pictures of container combinations you’d like to repeat.

Now is a good time to construct a compost bin, if desired. Make compost of lawn clippings and garden plants ready to be recycled. Do not use clippings if lawn has been treated with herbicide, including "weed-and-feed" products.

Continue routine maintenance on annual flowers to keep plants productive for the balance of the season. Remove spent blooms on a regular basis to keep new blooms coming. Water plants during dry spells and possibly give them a little balanced fertilizer at the same time.

Cut flowers from the garden to dry for ever-lasting arrangements.

Start thinking about planting for fall color and develop a planting plan.

Shade trees showing fall color in August may have root or trunk damage. Inspect the tree for damage caused by digging near the tree, injury from soil placed over the root zone, chemicals in the soil, excess water (or too little water) and girdling roots growing across others or cutting into the trunk; all can be serious problems.

Remove water sprouts (sprouts from the trunk) and suckers (sprouts from the roots) from fruit trees.

Prop up branches of fruit trees heavily loaded with fruit.

Pears are best ripened off the tree, so do not wait for the fruit to turn yellowish on the tree. Harvest pears when color of fruit changes — usually from a dark green to a lighter green — and when the fruit is easily twisted and removed from the spur.

Try to change direction when mowing your lawn.  This will help strengthen the roots system and expose different sides of the plant to sunlight.

Now is a good time to take soil samples from your lawn especially if you plan to put out winter grasses. Soil boxes can be picked-up at your local Co-op store.

At least two weeks before new lawn soil preparation, apply glyphosate to kill large populations of weeds in your lawn planting area. This herbicide will kill weeds, grasses and any green plants it is sprayed onto without leaving a residue in the soil. Once the weeds are gone, work the soil thoroughly to a depth of six inches prior to seeding, adding organic material like compost, rotted manure or topsoil to improve clay soils.

Don’t forget to feed the birds!