Garden Tasks for August
Bugs, weeds, and water are still demanding as much of our time as in the month of July. We are still amending the soil in beds now open after the final harvests of potatoes and onions, leeks and fennel, burnt out and bolting lettuce. We are also planting crops for late September and October harvests like kale, cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. We’re direct seeding root crops like carrots, parsnips, and salsify.
Garden Tasks for August: The Garden Audit
Begin August garden tasks with a long walk through your garden, assessing each bed and determining what stays, what goes, and what can last a few more weeks with a little, determined attention. Do this with a notebook and write down what you see as you walk by.
Then, when at your desk use this list to build out your plan for the next three or four weeks. Checking the longterm weather forecast may be helpful. August can be dry, and you’ll need to plan for the best germination conditions for the vegetables and herbs you direct seed in August.
How to conduct the August Garden Audit
1. Caring for your raised beds in the August garden.
Ask, which beds might best be ‘put to rest’ for the remainder of the season? Is there a bed that had a high nutrient demand crop like tomatoes that would do well to be tilled and seeded with a cover crop for the remainder of the year? Was there a crop that had a particular infestation of garden pests that would do well to be treated and amended until next spring? Or, do you have a set rotation for dormancy in your garden and begin creating the best conditions for those raised beds to rejuvenate during the fall and winter months?
Begin here so that you can then focus on the space you have available for planting your fall garden.
2. Amend the soil.
Which beds need the soil amended with organic compost or an all-purpose fertilizer? Sometimes I can eyeball this after harvesting a summer crop like cucumbers or summer squashes. What is the nutrient demand of that crop? In my mind, every raised bed in the garden needs fresh compost ever time it is turned over between crop successions. I use a soil test kit to get a general sense of soil health in my garden beds, then amend accordingly.
4. Plan fall crops.
This is a good time to download the Perennial and Overwintering Vegetable Guide from the Seasonal Living Resource Library! Not a member? Sign up here. This free ebook lists the best crops to plant in August that will use the fall and winter months to establish themselves for a rich spring or summer harvest the following year. I use it myself and it has become a very popular download.
Additionally, if you have a crop rotation plan for your beds, take it with you and assess its usefulness in planning your fall crops. We use the garden planner from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange to keep track of our rotations. We are also small enough that we often deviate from our original plan based on our energy level and how difficult the previous season was on our bodies and the soil.
4. Pick you garlic and shallot beds.
Note which bed is best for garlic. These overwintering crops need rich soil that drains well. They do not need a lot of fall maintenance but will need at least one good weeding in the spring. Garlic and shallots are planted after the first frost, sometime in October or November.
Order your seed garlic and shallots, if you haven’t already. I use a local, organic supplier whenever possible. For this region, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange is the best source for heirloom vegetable varieties for our soil conditions. There are hard neck and soft neck varieties of garlic, and numerous options for shallots. Choose a nice selection as your space and budget allow. This will help you learn which flavors you prefer and which varieties do best in your garden environment.
5. Check your 4-season gardening infrastructure for repairs.
If you have built caterpillar tunnels, take a look at their condition. Will you need to schedule time for repairs? Do you have the UV plastic and/or agribon you will need for your extended season crops? Can the tunnels withstand the inevitable snow, freezing rain and winds of winter? Schedule those repairs now, while the weather is nice and there is still plenty of daylight.
6. Create new garden beds.
Would you like to add new beds by using the ‘lasagna garden’ technique of layering mulch and allowing it to compost over the winter months? (These are my favorite beds as the soil is very rich and there are fewer weeds than the tilled beds. Taking time in your August garden to plan for these beds (location, materials, etc.) and then setting aside the time to build them, will make your spring garden tasks all the more manageable.
While tending to your August Garden Tasks, it is a good time to download the Perennial and Overwintering Vegetable Guide from the Seasonal Living Resource Library! Not a member? Sign up here.
This free ebook lists the best crops to plant in August that will use the fall and winter months to establish themselves for a rich spring or summer harvest the following year. I use it myself and it has become a very popular download.
Make Amends Using the Garden Tasks for August~
The past four months have been hard on your garden beds. It’s time to make amends! Using the audit above, build a list that begins with repairs to the structures in your garden. Next, the soil, and finally creating the new. As you renovate the structure of a garden bed and repair its soil, you can choose which crops to plant and when to install them.
I like moving methodically through our garden from north to south. As I progress from bed to bed and row to row, it feels like a healing wave has moved across the garden. Take before and after pictures as the results of your labors will be dramatic.
Harvest, Preserve, and Plant ~
As you are moving through your garden tasks for August, bed to bed, you’ll be harvesting and gleaning. Make sure to include time in your month to put up as much as you can for the winter months. Freezing is fast, fermentation is also a good skill for the busy gardener. Hot water bath canning is the most tedious of food preservation techniques but probably the best one for tomatoes.
Learn how to quick ferment any vegetable with this Dilly Bean Recipe.
Click this link to learn how to hot water bath blanch with this Fresh Tomato Bloody Mary recipe.
Direct seed: lettuce, carrots, beets, parsnips, salsify, Swiss chard, bunching onions, spinach, beans.
There are plenty of seed starting schedules, month by month, in the Seasonal Living Resource Library!
Transplant: kale, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts.
Again, save room for garlic. It is planted after the first frost, sometime in October or November. And, think about space for many other Perennial and Overwintering Crops described in the eBook in the Resource Library!
Once the garden has recovered and your to-do list is all checked off, be sure to make time to enjoy the fruits of your labor and the beauty of your space. Here, in the Harpers Ferry area, we usually get a very pleasant week at the end of August. The temperatures drop, the days are shorter, the very first of the leaves are falling (usually the black walnut trees go first). It is a very nice time to plan an outdoor gathering for friends and family.
We’re blessed to have good friends who are even better musicians. We’ll be hosting a shindig with an open jam this fall, but the planning always starts in August!
Stay in Touch ~