"My To Do List for August," by the Whistling Gardener

The Whistling Gardener shares his list of chores including watering tips for the month of August. Photo Courtesy of Sunnyside Nursery.
The Whistling Gardener shares his list of chores including watering tips for the month of August. Photo Courtesy of Sunnyside Nursery.

This weekly column is being reproduced with the permission of Steve Smith, The Whistling Gardener, and owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville. 

August is a pivotal month in the garden. We have a choice to continue to water and feed and prune and plant and keep things looking nice or we can just throw up our hands and let nature take its course. Considering the lack of rainfall, many of us have probably already done just that.

I am going to assume that since you are reading this you would like to know what to do to keep things looking nice. Here we go.

PLANTING--Contrary to popular belief, summer is an excellent time to do planting. While the soils can actually be too wet in the spring, the summer soils are drier and with some pre-irrigation can be made moist enough for planting. With careful attention to watering, summer planting is actually better than spring.

FERTILIZE--The rule is simple: feed them and they will grow. Plants need food, especially annuals, perennials and veggies. If your plants look tired and off color chances are they need to be fed. Organics last the longest but solubles go to work the fastest.

PRUNING--Yes, you can prune shrubs and trees in the summer, just not severely. Go tackle the fruit and flowering trees and get the suckers out now. This is the perfect time to dress up your hedges too. Just do it with some degree of moderation.

ROSES--Keep removing old blooms and fertilize every six weeks. Control mildew with your favorite fungicide (the systemics last the longest).

BUGS—It seems like the suckers like aphids decrease in the summer and the chewers like grasshoppers and caterpillars increase. Either way they can be controlled with either natural or synthetic products but they don’t work if you leave them in the container they came in!

DISEASES--Any damage from spring on cherries and lilacs and laurels and who knows what else is best dealt with now with the loppers. Cut out dead and diseased wood and fertilize and water to stimulate new replacement growth. Dew in the morning usually means mildew on our plants so an ounce of prevention goes a long way in August.

LAWNS--Apply an inch of water per week and some food and you should have a nice soft green surface to recreate on for the rest of the summer. If you have let your lawn go dormant then at least apply one inch per month to keep it alive.

VEGGIES, HERBS AND FRUITS—Be sure to harvest your veggies on a regular basis (zucchini seems to double its size over night). Now is the time to do a second planting of root crops like carrots and beets and if you have room you can sow some lettuce. We will have transplants available this month.

WATERING—generally speaking it is recommended that we apply one inch of water a week but for established shrubs and trees much less is needed. Water perennials, annuals, veggies and lawns two to three times a week, shrubs one to two times a month and trees only once. To save moisture and control weeds keep applying mulch to the surface of your garden beds.

Admittedly this is an overview of chores for the month so for more in depth information come into the garden center or go to our website for past columns that deal with specific subjects.

Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached online at

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