Sunday, August 2, 2009

August Garden Chores

I found these helpful garden tips at when I was noodling around BloominKrazy one of the sites we follow at The advice given is based on a zone 5 situation in very northeastern NY state and western MA. I like a lot of the information they present. So I am listing some of what they have to say (their advice is in quotes) and I comment briefly as to how we hardy gardeners in Skillin's Country can follow this gardening advice to our benefit.

"I SOMETIMES THINK THAT AUGUST, not April, is the cruelest month (though T.S. Eliot famously thought otherwise, and spelled it cruellest for good measure). Hazy, hot and humid…and plum tuckered out. But give up we must not. Every weed pulled now is a hundred you don’t have to deal with later (well, who knows the precise math of mama weed to baby weed, but you get the idea: prevention). Don’t let them go to seed. But that’s not all there is to do around here, so let’s get started on the list...." I love August--and April for that matter. As I get older I praise God for every month I get to see!

"WATERING IS another major focus; if you’re dry, don’t waste water on lawns, which will bounce back from brown in time when cooler, moister days return. Target your offerings to the most precious subjects, particularly recently planted things. " Folks we are NOT dry here in Skillin's Country, we are very very wet. BUT we cannot forget that material like perennials, shrubs and trees planted in 2009 still need a couple of good quality waterings every week. Many weeks the natural rain has sufficed as we have received close to 20 inches of rain since June 1. But if August dries out a little bit our newly planted material will need some water. Keep checking the Skillin's Garden Log; we will keep you posted if such waterings are needed.

"MAKE A PASS through each bed each week, since weeds are not just unsightly but steal moisture, nutrients and light from desired plants. Top up mulch in all garden beds if washed or worn away to help in the plight. " Very good advice. I was just speaking to a customer this morning who put in a solid day of weeding on Saturday. But as she put it the weeds are pulling quite easy these days since the ground is so moist. Take advantage of the moist ground and get out there and pull those big weeds. Lots of little weeds. Check out a good scuffling hoe like the Hula Hoe (sold right here at Skillin's).


"DON’T FEED WOODY plants any more (better, even, to stop in July). Promoting more soft growth in high summer isn’t good; time for them to start moving toward the hardening-off phase of their cycle. No more eats till earliest spring. " I DO NOT agree with this. I do not advocate getting woody plants any more liquid feedings with a "quick rush" (think coffee) food like Miracle Gro. But I do believe all woody plants needs two good feedings per year of a good natural fertlizer like Holly Tone by Espoma for evergreen plants or Plant Booster Plus by Organica or Plant or Tree Tone by Espoma. I believe if you feed your trees, shrubs and perennials consistently twice yearly with these quality all natural foods then you will provide a good slow yield of nutrients and microbes that will benefit your soil and then the roots and then the plant immensely. But consistency is key; two feedings per year. Spring, summer. Spring, fall. Summer, fall. Keep those quality ingredients coming to your soil.

"ALWAYS BE on the lookout for dead, damaged, diseased wood in trees and shrubs and prune them out as discovered. Ditto with suckers and water sprouts." Great advice here. We will be having a pruning class at Skillin's this fall and we will let you know about that soon. But we are always available to answer any pruning questions you have. Dead, damaged and diseased wood can serve as a host for further diseases and/or insects and that prospect is nice to avoid.


"HAVING TOMATO TROUBLES? I know I am this year, along with much of the East." Check out Garden Talks July 28--Lawn Weeds, Bed preparation; Tomato issues. At the end of that post we had a good tomato discussion with one of our customers. I think there is some good information there.

"AS AREAS COME EMPTY from harvest, build vegetable-garden soil by sowing cover crops: medium red clover now, or perhaps winter rye if you don’t do some areas till mid-fall. These “green manures” will be turned under to improve soil tilth and fertility. " Good advice. Even if you have a small space that is turning empty late summer and fall is a good time to at least layer some compost on top of the empty space. Use your own compost or of course we sell great compost here at Skillin's "in bulk" or by the bag. Simply layer the compost on top of the empty space (the more the better) and let it break down over the remainder of the season, winter and early Spring into your existing soil.

"SOW ANOTHER CROP OF PEAS right now for fall harvest (and perhaps freezing for offseason use). Shelled peas from the freezer really make risotto in January taste like summer. " Great advice and even in Maine we have time to plant another pea crop. That reminds me, we have another crop of broccoli, lettuces and cabbages on the way for you to plant. I believe we will have it available in about another week; just in time for cool weather harvest!

"STRAWBERRY BEDS may appreciate rejuvenation now, if you didn’t get it done last month. " Pull any old plants that did not perform well, spread a dose of Plant Booster Plus by Organica or Garden Tone by Espoma across the bed to reinforce that soil if you have not given the area a quality feeding with a good natural food since Spring.

"KEEP ASPARAGUS well weeded. Let asparagus ferns grow till frost to feed the underlying crowns. " Asparagus is awesome and grows very well in Skillin's Country. Yes, clean the asparagus bed of weeds and again a nice dose of Plant Booster Plus or Garden Tone would probably be very timely.

"DID YOU HARVEST GARLIC? Save the best heads for replanting this fall, the ones with the biggest cloves (or order more for fall delivery). " We should have garlic for you to plant this fall.

"ANOTHER SOWING of chard, radishes, arugula, spinach, turnips, beets and lettuce means succulent fall crops. With salad greens, sow small amounts now and again in 10 days. " We have seeds in stock still AND we are due to get our 2010 seeds from Botanical Interest ( very soon. Their array of seeds is ideal for this task but in the meantime we still have some 2009 seeds that will work equally well.

"DID YOU START MORE BASIL from seed? Young, fresh plants sown immediately will be better than woody old ones for combining with fall tomatoes. Is there enough fresh dill coming for late pickles? For peak flavor, basil, sage, marjoram and oreganos, mint and tarragon are best harvested just before bloom. Harvest lavender, rosemary and chamomile as they flower, blossoms and all. " Great herb advice and we have fresh herb plants of many types that were just written about here.


"DAYLILIES can be dug and divided as they complete their bloom cycle, right into fall, if needed. " We still have an awesome selection of daylilies still in flower here at Skillin's!

"PEONIES are best divided and transplanted in late August through September, if they need it. Remember with these fussy guys that “eyes” must not be buried more than an inch or two beneath the soil surface. " Peonies will be getting pretty dormant by the end of this month; I agree that in just a few weeks is the best time to divide and conquer them. The depth advice is crucial. I would also put a little Plant Booster Plus or Plant Tone underneath them so when the peonies awaken in late March or early April the soil will be in even better shape then it is now.

"MANY POPULAR ANNUALS can be overwintered as young plants if you take and root cuttings now rather than try to nurse along leggy older specimens. Geraniums, coleus, wax begonias, even impatiens (to name just a few common ones), if grown in good light indoors and kept pinched and bushy, will yield another generation of cuttings for next spring’s transplants. Probably best to expend this effort and space on things you really treasure—an unusual form of something, not the garden variety." Great advice; especially about just trying to preserve absolute favorites. Time and space are precious here in Skillin's Country. In many cases you will be happier and less stressed starting anew in the Spring.

"MANY PERENNIALS and biennials can still be started from seed if you hurry, then set out in the fall into nursery beds. " Yes and we have perennial seeds still in stock in some cases with 2010 seeds due to arrive soon!

"DEADHEAD FADED PERENNIALS and summer bulbs unless they have showy seedheads, or you want to collect seed later (non-hybrids only). " See this recent post Grateful Dead(heading) by KCB where KCB writes eloquently about the benefits and necessities of dead heading those perennials. Very good garden habits written about there. Dead heading is so beneficial to your perennials!

"PREPARE NEW beds for fall planting by smothering grass or weeds with layers of recycled corrugated cardboard or thick layers of newspaper, then put mulch on top. " We have talked about this technique in the past at the Skillin's Garden Log. Check out More Discussion on Newspaper as Garden Mulch!

"RE-EDGE BEDS to make a clean line and define them, and keep edges clean with regular fine-tuning with grass shears. A clean edge makes a big difference, as does topping up the mulch a bit." As the year goes on, beds can always use edging and more mulch (I prefer compost).


"IF HOUSEPLANTS NEED repotting, do it now, while they’re still outside (less messy than in the house). Don’t step up more than an inch in diameter (on small pots) or a couple (on large ones). Most plants don’t like to swim in their containers. " We have some great new containers on the way and always have a good selection of pots. I recommend Coast of Maine's Bar Harbor Blend for your soil. All natural, best quality, local company!

"MID-AUGUST TO MID-SEPTEMBER is prime lawn-renovation, planting and re-seeding time in the North. " Check out Garden Happenings! Week of April 27 where I wrote about how pleased I was with my lawn renovation efforts from last August and September and the products I recommend.

DON’T BAG OR RAKE clippings; let them lie on the lawn to return Nitrogen to the soil.


"DON’T LET the heap dry out completely, or it will not “cook.” Turning it to aerate will also hasten decomposition, but things will rot eventually even if not turned. " I have a compost heap that is thoroughly soaked and cooking nicely. Turning is very important.

Drop us a comment below with any questions or email us at!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
August 2, 2009

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