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AUGUST: What to do in the Garden


In the Edible Garden

  • Sow radish, lettuce, spinach, beet and turnip seed late in the month.
  • If you have an empty area in the garden, consider planting a green manure crop. Sow seeds of oats, rye or buckwheat. When dug or tilled into the soil in the spring, green manure crops improve soil structure and add nutrients.Plant a final crop of beans in early August. Keep germinating seeds moist.
  • Control cucumber beetles on cucumbers, squashes, melons and gourds. The striped beetle is one-fifth of an inch long with striped yellow and black wings; the spotted beetle has 12 black dots on its wings. Their feeding spreads a bacterial wilt. Spray or dust weekly (late in the day) with rotenone or carbaryl.
  • Harvests are at their peak this month. Enjoy the bounty, share with neighbors and if there is still leftovers, find a food pantry in your neighborhood and donate. Those in need are especially grateful for the gift of fresh vegetables and fruit. Find a pantry online.
  • Check with better garden centers for the arrival of transplants. Swiss chard is often available and makes a fine salad green during hot weather. Also shop for seeds of short-season crops that can still be planted this year. Water well and frequently if you’ll be starting seeds this month.
  • Consider netting if you are growing fruit and are concerned about birds or squirrels stealing the crop.

In the Ornamental Garden

  • Brown areas in the lawn could be a sign that grubs have eaten the grass roots. Lift the turf and see if you can roll it up like a rug. If you find 8 to 12 grubs per square foot treat with a recommended insecticide and water it in immediately. (Call your local Extension office or visit www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/lawnchallenge for more info.)
  • Do not apply rose fertilizer after mid-August, as this will encourage new growth that will be susceptible to winter damage. Divide iris. Cut back the leaves to about one-third the original length. Separate rhizomes with a sharp knife. New transplants should have a fan of leaves with white roots. Plant just below the soil surface.Cut back straggly annuals to promote new growth.Take cuttings of coleus, impatiens, wax begonias, rosemary, thyme and oregano to start indoors for a winter window garden.Control aphids with a strong blast of water or insecticidal soap.
  • Order spring flowering bulbs.
  • Deadhead many annuals and certain perennials to spur new growth and improve the appearance of the plants.
  • With pruners still in hand, continue cutting newly blooming flowers to bring indoors or use in an arrangement on the patio. If cut flowers are a priority in your life, consider planting an entire bed in plants destined to be used for this purpose.
  • Take care of flower bed edges, which tend to look ragged as weeds fill in, as lawn turf encroaches or blades of grass lay over the edge. Use grass shears or a string trimmer to neaten the turf edges and a hoe or long-handled CobraHead weeder to disrupt the weeds

In the Indoor Garden

  • If you’re trying to make your plants bigger, fertilize this month with a balanced formula. If you don’t want the plants to get out of bounds, feed lightly to provide nutritional needs.
  • Prune back many kinds of Ficus for shape. The wound may leak a small amount of a milky sap. If you have Dieffenbachia and want to take it down in size, wear gloves as its sap can react with skin.
  • Consider adding a tropical palm to your collection. See the July/August issue of the magazine for help in succeeding with palms.

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Do the ants on my peony flowers help buds to open, or is this an old wives’ tale? What are the extremely tiny, microscopic yellow wormy looking bugs crawling on my pink peony flowers? My peonies are beautiful, but I don’t want all these bugs.

I would like to start seeds under lights. When is the best time to start flower seeds? The seed packet always says to sow a number of weeks before the last frost. When is the last frost?

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