End of Summer To-Do List in the Garden

Garden harvest
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Even when August is at its hottest, the ground is parched and ready for fall rains, making most gardeners long for fall, but there’s plenty to do around the garden. Here are some of the more pressing end of summer to-do items in your organic garden.

Harvesting and Clearing Summer Spaces

Some of your plants will still be growing, but nearly all of them are on their last leg at this point. It’s time to clear out some garden spaces and get ready for fall crops or winter coverings.

For the edible landscape, in particular, you want to make sure that August doesn’t turn your landscape into a mess of falling, browning plants, deadhead flowering annuals, perennials, and shrubs to try for one last round of blossoms. Remove dying, fallen plants – for some, that means it’s time to harvest and begin fall and winter food storage anyway. Make sure you stay on top of any weed growth, even when it’s hot out and you’d rather not be weeding. A little work here and there is better than trying to catch up once it has taken over.

If any garden beds are clear, make sure to cover up the empty spaces. Bare, open ground is an invitation for hardened ground and new pests and weeds. You can use mulch, layer gardening techniques, or cover crops – just don’t leave any bare ground!

Starting the Fall Garden

If you live in a region suitable for fall gardening, now’s the time to get them started or even in the ground.

For shorter cool seasons, kale, lettuce, arugula, mustard greens, and spinach will grow quickly; most of them will feed the soil, and their harvest will be complete before the snows hit. Sow directly, and if you have more time, you can tackle beets, radishes, broccoli, and cabbage.

Even if you can’t get more vegetables in the ground, strongly consider planting a cover crop or two.

Cover crops keep the soil loose and feed, help prevent winter weed build up and look so much nicer than bare, empty ground.

Preparing Mulch and Compost

Don’t leave the garden bare; you’ll need plenty of mulch and compost to get you through the winter. If you haven’t started yet, a DIY compost pile is a simple weekend effort that will yield excellent returns. Use the soon-to-fall leaves to make mulch. By the time the last of the harvest is out of the garden, your compost pile and leaf mulch will be ready and waiting to feed the growing spaces until next year.

Tip: If you are mulching this fall and winter instead of adding crops, use golf tees or gardening markers to note where perennials have gone dormant. That way, when you’re looking at your space and deciding what to plan next year, you don’t forget about those bulbs!

Maintaining Shrubs and Trees

If you have shrubs, trees, or other perennials, they’re ready for some TLC at the end of this month. Don’t deadhead or fertilize anything that won’t make it through the cold months ahead – now isn’t the time to encourage growth. Instead, simply prune them back as needed once the blooms are over.

For all plants still kicking in the month of August, make sure you’re giving them deep drinks of water.

Especially in hot climates, the sun and humidity will evaporate light watering and leave little benefit for the plants.