Clock time is a human invention. Unlike natural time, like the rotation of the earth and a leaf flowing down a river. Still, it’s August and we can’t help but notice that the sun rises and sets on a different notch in the trees now, compared to June. During August, we will lose 2.3 hours of daylight. Does that mean that summer, this warm and amazing summer, is over?
It’s easy to throw your hands up in disbelief that the gardening season is behind us. But even though plants (domestic and wild) have matured much more quickly than normal because of the unusually dry conditions, it’s better to believe that over the next couple months the best is yet to come.
Especially if you like to take pictures. Late summer and early fall translates to lovely colors and sweet morning and evening light.
Nonetheless, August seems to mark the time of year when we pull back a little. Retreat. We devote less time and attention to our yards and gardens, sometimes ignoring it altogether. Except for mowing the lawn, that is. Is it because school doors open soon? Silvers are showing up or because the flowers you planted in May and June are looking tired?
Stay with it. Your yard will look much better and you’ll enjoy a longer bloom and harvest season if you spend just a couple hours tending to a few things.
OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW
To increase bloom time and stretch it into the fall, pinch, clip, and prune wilted pansies, calendula, broccoli leaves and begonias. (Did you know that begonia flowers are edible? Taste like lemon). Deadheading tidies up a plant and strengthens it, too. Just stroll around and pick off faded blossoms of calendula, pansies and other annuals each time you head outside.
A good time to pinch off wilted flowers is just before the lawn gets mowed. Pinch off the flowers and toss them onto the grass. Pinch and toss. Pinch and toss. The lawn mower shreds them up into invisible bits, which in turn, feeds the lawn.
MULCH, MULCH, MULCH
If the plants are really kaput, pull them out and then scratch in mulch (grass clippings, kelp/seaweed, cow manure, compost) to boost the depleted soil. Here’s a great way to dig in compost: Whenever you have a blank space in the garden, dig a hole and add kitchen scraps, such as banana peels, coffee grounds, and egg shells. Cover with a few inches of soil and walk away. The worms and other soil creatures will take care of the rest.
Cut back tall perennials when they’re finished blooming. August is also an ideal time to divide and transplant perennials and relocate shrubs and trees. The warm soil provides plenty of time for roots to become established in their new home before winter arrives.
Meanwhile, keep potted plants like fuchsia, dahlias and other late bloomers, evenly moist. And remember to rotate pots and hanging baskets so the other side can enjoy the sun.
Garlic: If you haven’t harvested the garlic you planted last fall, don’t wait any longer. Hang them upside-down in groups of three to five in a cool, airy place for four to six weeks. Then clip off the stem an inch or so above the bulb.
Potatoes: To harvest an early meal of spuds, slip your hand into the soil alongside the stem of a flowering spud and root around for “new” potatoes. Don’t pull the whole plant. Just sample early ones right now and leaving the rest to keep growing.
Other veggies: Pick snap peas as they reach a tasty size. They are much sweeter when just ripe. Thin carrots and other root crops, eat turnip greens and sow more salad greens while the soil is still warm.
When broccoli (and later as their sister crops like cabbage and Brussels sprouts) stop producing and go to flowers. Resist the temptation to yank them out just yet. The leaves are edible (they make good wraps) and the yellow flowers support our local pollinators, such as bumblebees.
IN THE HOOPHOUSE
Keep up with the watering, but be cautious. Too much moisture in the air causes grey mold. Which means keep up with good air circulation, too. On the other hand, irregular watering causes tomatoes to split and develop blossom end rot. Continue to feed cucumbers and squash. Tip: Compost tea and kelp solutions are high in potassium and phosphorus.
Finally, put up berries, make herbal vinegars and whip up a batch of parsley pesto. Then sweep the deck, weed-whack around fences, swings, trampolines and sheds. And rinse planting trays, before putting them away.
None of this is difficult work. If anything, your arms, abs and legs get a good workout. Nor does any of this take a lot of time. You can still get your household ready for school and catch a few silvers. Plus your garden and yard will look revived and refreshed — a nice greeting when you come home from picking berries or fishing for silvers and halibut.
While time — as most of us relate to it — continues to tick along, be sure to spend copious amounts of time outdoors. Being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical well-being, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, and tension.
Have a great week, and if you have a garden question, pop me an email to: email@example.com.