Taking stock of an August garden

By Jean Thomson


Early August is a great time for gardeners to take a careful look at their plants. While some tasks are routine ? harvesting vegetables that are ready; deadheading perennial blooms; mowing and weeding; cleaning up storm debris ? others fall under the heading ?make a note to do this now.?

1. Examine roses, which may have suffered mightily from Japanese beetles. Cut back and remove damaged foliage, and plan to give each plant its last feeding of the season by mid-month.

2. Look at remaining cool season plants, such as violas and pansies, and simply discard them now unless they have done exceptionally well.

3. Check flowers with a trailing habit, such as petunias and catmint. They may benefit now from being cut back a good deal to encourage a new round of bloom on reasonably sturdy stems.

4. Turn the compost pile, which has finally had the benefit of measurable rainfall.

5. Update entries in your garden notebook so that you?ll be able to check on the performance of particular plants this summer. Do not trust your memory!

Along with the tasks on this checklist, some looking ahead is a good idea. For example, this is an ideal time to place orders for spring bulbs. Turning to catalogs or online sources allows you to choose from a vast panoply of varieties, sizes, shapes, colors, and bloom times.

Right now is also a perfect time to consider whether a new garden bed might be in your future. Whether you want to extend a perennial border, establish an herb garden, or fulfill some other gardening dream, why not start the process now?

Once you know where you want to locate the new bed and what shape and dimensions you have in mind, the easiest approach is to cover exactly that area with several layers of newspaper. Then spread several inches of compost over the newspaper bed. This combo, left in place for months, will smother grass and weeds.

By late fall or early spring, the soil in your new bed should be ready to work. Ideally, you (or someone else you appoint or hire!) should spade the bed, working it to a depth of 18 inches and incorporating all the compost. Then you will be ready to tackle the full range of seasonal gardening tasks.