Wow, are we really almost finished with the first week of August?! This summer really has seemed to have flown by. Things in my garden have started to reach the chaos phase- tomatoes branches sprawled with far reach, vines no longer contained to their designated trellises, and top heavy sunflowers bent and fallen all over the place. Kitchen counters are in full mid-summer mode, and covered daily with ripening pears, tomatoes, cucumbers and of course, squash.
Despite the heat, we are slowly creeping into the Autumn season, and in addition to dealing with summer’s bounty, it is time to start thinking about the fall and winter gardens.
Northern California Gardening Checklist: August
- Start fall veggies. Direct seed carrots, onions, peas and radishes. Start broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, lettuce, kale and spinach seeds inside. Next month is also a fine time to plant, even into October, so if you don’t have space yet or just don’t have time, don’t worry.
- Prune hydrangeas. Prune back right after blooming. Cut stems that have bloomed back to 12 inches. Most varieties produce flowers on previous year’s growth, so when pruning for shape and to control size, avoid cutting cutting off buds.
- Harvest, harvest harvest. If you can’t eat it all fresh, preserve for the winter by dehydrating, pickling, fermenting, canning or freezing. Offer to friends, set out on the curb with a free sign, donate to the food pantry, or leave on your neighbor’s doorstep.
- Water. Despite it being warmer than ever, it may be possible to water less. Now that most plants have set fruit, they don’t need as much as previous when putting on growth. If you have harvested all that you will off a particular plant, stop water completely. Maintain constant moisture on tomatoes to prevent blossom-end rot. If you do start new seeds, make sure to keep moist, and try keeping a shade cloth over the area to prevent moisture loss.
- Maintain flowers. Make sure to bring some blooms inside so you can appreciate them. Deadhead fading flowers to keep in bloom longer, or leave dead blooms standing for the birds. Summer is a busy time in the garden, with a frenzy of birds consuming seeds from my spent bachelor buttons, sunflowers, cosmos and zinnias. I love to watch tiny finches perch on swaying stalks to nom down on tiny seeds. If you don’t want to leave dead or drooping flowers standing in the garden, pick the seed heads off and dry, then set in on a platform bird feeder.
- Plan ahead for fruit. If you want to plant fruit trees in the winter, but not sure what time, now is the time to start planning ahead. Sample varieties at the local farm stands and farmers markets to find which types you like best.
- Control fire-blight. Its a bad year for fire-blight, especially in pears. This bacterial disease affects new growth on apples, pears, quince and pyracantha, leaving it dead and blackened. Prune affected branches 8-12 inches below the infected area, dipping pruners in a bleach solution after every cut.
- Prune berries. As soon as they have finished fruiting, cut berry canes that bore fruit off at the base. Tie new canes to a trellis.
- Learn. Attend the Farm to Fermentation Festival on August 22 at Finley. This is an awesome event loaded with speakers, workshops and vendors. Make sure to get VIP ticket so you can taste all the local fermented adult beverages. You can read more about my experience last year here. The San Francisco Dahlia Society’s annual free exhibition at the Hall of Flowers is on August 15 & 16.
How’s your August going? Are you loving summer or ready for it to be fall?