August can be a busy month in the garden. In the warm states, Zones 7 and higher, it is time to start seeds that thrive in cool conditions. Vegetables started now will be ready to transplant to the garden in October or November, giving you another season of harvest.
Seeds of broccoli, cauliflower, chard, brussel sprouts, onions, cabbage, parsnips, turnips, and rutabagas can be sown in pots in August, giving you transplants by October. It is easier to get the transplants you want with this method than to rely on garden centers.
These centers are getting a little better about stocking in fall vegetable plants, but look out for weak, tired, overgrown transplants still waiting on the shelves from spring. These left-over plants are never a bargain this time of year, if they have been growing in the same 2-4 inch pot all summer. They most likely will never recover enough to make a crop.
Take the time now to clean up the garden space. Remove all of the spent vegetable plants. If you had insect or disease problems, then remove the debris to the trash, not the compost pile. Using tainted material in the compost can just multiply your problems when you spread it on your new garden.
Check the pH of your garden soil. Most vegetable plants grow best in soil on the slightly acid side, 6.0 – 6.8. Add a layer of compost and any lime needed to adjust the pH. Barely turn the soil to incorporate the new amendments. This will have the added benefit of turning up any insects getting ready to overwinter underground. Add a layer of straw as mulch. It is easier to plug plants through mulch than to mulch around each little seedling after you put them in the ground.
The exception to mulching are the rows you are going to seed directly into the garden. You can leave the row open and mulch between rows. Look for directions under "Vegetables" on this website for the conditions needed to sow the individual seeds. Then when the seedlings emerge and are big enough, you can pull the mulch up to their stems. Seeds to direct sow into the garden plot, in August and early September, are lettuce, spinach, turnips, carrots, kohlrabi, parsley, dill, and beets.
Ornamental vegetables, the veggies bred to give color and form to your winter flower beds and containers, should be seeded into pots, now, too. I especially like the ornamental kale, ‘Redbor’, for its deep blueish-purple foliage. Swiss chard ‘Morning Lights’ is beautiful, with its stems of red, yellow, and white clumped together. There are several colors of ornamental cabbage, some with shredded leaves.
August is also a good time to get those perennial and biennual flowers sown. You can seed them into pots for transplanting later into the garden, or you can direct sow them into the ground outdoors. Check out the recommendations elsewhere on this website.
August often is treacherously hot. The seeding in pots can be done inside and the pots taken out to the garden (in the evening) to sprout in the shade. Keep the potting medium moist and get them into the sunshine once they are up and growing.
You might think you are just too tired to garden any more, but once you try fall and winter gardening, you might give up most of your spring and summer garden. It is that much easier. The rains are more predictable in the winter, there are few to no bugs or diseases to contend with, and winter weeds are easy to defeat with a hoe in the cool autumn and winter air.
Find more vegetables at Park Seed.
---Posted by Anne K Moore, August 26, 2007---
NASA Seeds in Space
"Vines provide a distinct ornamental touch; while their versatility in size, texture, color and bloom time artfully blends architecture with the landscape," Natural Life, Guide to Landscape Plants-Second Edition.