11 Gardening Tasks to do in August
Spend the last days of summer giving your garden some extra TLC! In this article, gardening expert Kaleigh Brillon shares 11 gardening tasks you can take care of this month.
August is a crazy time in the garden. Depending on where you live, you may be winding down as temperatures cool or going full throttle with more heat on the horizon. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed or unsure of what you need to do in the garden.
This month is a prime example of how chaotic nature can be. While some plants die down after a productive season, some pests are revving up to start the next generation. Mulch looks used up, while compost is ready to be used.
There are still many gardening tasks to take care of in August. Some tasks are for the current garden, while others look ahead to the next season. Either way, take care of these tasks now for a healthy and productive garden in the long run.
In many zones, August is the perfect time to start saving seeds. Harvest seeds from spent flowers in the edible and ornamental garden.
Save seeds for next year to reduce costs, or keep your favorite plants on hand. If you grew an unusual variety of something that you may not be able to find again, save those seeds!
Remove seeds from flowers, fruits, or vegetables. Rinse them off if necessary, and allow them to dry out. Store them in envelopes, paper bags, or air-tight containers when completely dry.
Don’t use plastic bags. Moisture can build up inside and cause seeds to become moldy. While they work in a pinch, you need to ensure no moisture is left in the seeds. Soon, you can start your seeds indoors for next spring’s crop!
Don’t plant fall bulbs until the weather is consistently cool. Ordering them early allows plenty of time for the bulbs to ship. If you wait too long to order, stores may run out of what you want or deliver past your ideal planting time frame.
Keep your bulbs in a cool dry location when you receive them. Plant them once the ground temperatures drop to 40-50°F, usually up to 8 weeks before the first freeze.
Pro-tip: use an auger to make the bulb-planting process quick and easy! Whether you’re planting delicious garlic or beautiful tulips, you’ll appreciate your work when spring arrives.
Cut Back Herbs
Herbs are usually unruly by this time of year, so it’s time to give them a haircut. This yields a generous harvest to preserve for the upcoming winter months while ensuring there is plenty of time to hang them up to dry while the weather is still warm.
Many herbs still have much growing to do once August comes around, and cutting them back will encourage bushier growth. Trim any herbs that have become leggy and sparse; they’ll return looking better than ever.
Herbs like thyme, sage, and oregano can be harvested and dried to enjoy through the winter months. Make the most of these delicious ingredients until you can harvest them fresh again next season! Some herbs can be potted up and grown indoors.
Clean Up the Tools
Tool cleaning usually happens between growing seasons, but August is a good time for a touch-up. If any tools seem rusty or stick a little when you squeeze the handles, give them a quick cleaning. Dirty and rusty tools can spread diseases.
Wash your tools with water to knock off dirt and debris. Hard-to-clean spots can be handled with a pressure sprayer and some soap. You can use WD-40 to remove and prevent rust and loosen any sticking moving parts. If you’re not a fan of WD-40, consider another spray lubricant, as it will more easily penetrate the moving parts of your tools.
Evaluate Your Mulch
Another August gardening task: refresh your mulch! The mulch you laid in spring might be breaking down. Natural mulches like straw or wood break down over time, and the process is sped up with lots of exposure to water, sunlight, and foot traffic.
Add a fresh layer if your mulch looks a little worse for wear. This keeps existing plants happy for a little longer and helps new plants get established.
Take a break from the heat and focus on your houseplants. August is an excellent time to repot houseplants, especially if you let them out to enjoy the summer sun because it’s in the middle of their growing season. The active roots will have plenty of time to grow into their new soil and acclimate.
Remove the plant from its container and loosen the roots. You might think you need to be careful with the roots, but they’re often quite resilient and can take a little roughhousing if you don’t severely damage them. Untangle the roots if they’re rootbound, and remove some existing potting soil.
Prepare the new container by adding as much fresh soil as you need to make the top of the root ball line up with the top of the container. Settle the plant into the new pot, making sure to help the roots spread out. Backfill the remaining space with soil, give it a generous drink, and fill in any gaps with extra soil.
Reseed or Restart the Lawn
August is the time to reseed patchy areas in your lawn. Only take care of troublesome spots rather than the whole lawn; it’ll save you time and money, and there’s no need to seed areas that are growing well.
If you’ve been thinking about lawn alternatives, August is the right time to complete this task! Start a clover or creeping thyme lawn now to give it plenty of warm weather to get established. Add these seeds to your current lawn to create a mix of seeds and clover (or whatever alternative you choose).
Remove Pests by Hand
An unpleasant but necessary August garden task is pest removal. Many pests remain incredibly active in August, and some are just beginning the next generation. Stay on top of pest problems by hand-picking when you see them. Go on a bug hunt during morning or evening hours to remove whatever you see.
Many insects live in garden debris. If you get a little lazy like I do and let summer plants die off until you’re ready to plant your fall garden, you only create a cozy habitat for them to camp out in.
Removing pests by hand will help disrupt their life cycle and lower the population in your garden. You can do double-duty and remove the debris as well, freshening up the garden’s look!
Preserve Your Harvests
As you pick tomatoes and cut back your herbs, now is a great time for preservation. Turn tomatoes into sauce, can excess squash, and transform berries into yummy jam.
An abundant garden can quickly become overwhelming. Although it’s nice to share with neighbors, save some of your produce to enjoy later. It’s a lot of work now, but you’ll appreciate your garden-grown produce in the winter months.
Plan Fall Vegetables
Some fall vegetables can be planted right now, but you’ll need to wait until the weather cools off (if it ever will!) before planting most of your seeds. While you wait, start planning what you want to grow this year.
There are so many cool-season crops to try that you may struggle to fit it all in your garden. There are plenty of Brassicas to choose from, like cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts.
You can grow an assortment of greens, from Swiss chard to lettuce to mustard. Onions and garlic can be planted in the fall, as can potatoes, radishes, turnips, and many herbs.
Some plants can be started indoors and moved outside once the weather cools down, so get started on those. In the meantime, work on clearing out your garden beds as your summer plants stop producing and die out and decide where to plant your fall crops.
Plan Next Year’s Garden
Add planning for next year to your August garden tasks. It’s hard to think of next year when you’re still working on a summer garden, but it’s the perfect time to do so.
You have a live garden in front of you—you can see right now what’s working well and what you wish you could’ve done differently. Note how everything is functioning and translate this into next year’s plan.
See which plants are overcrowded to plan for more spacing next year. Also, note which plants are burning in the sun or which have too much shade.
Think about the little things, too. Is your watering schedule and system working well, or is it annoying to deal with? Do you wish you had planted a high-maintenance plant closer to your garden shed? You can change these things next year, so write down what you do and don’t like.
August is a busy time for the garden. Find some time to take care of these August gardening tasks so you can get a head start on your fall garden and even start thinking about next year!