August is the Month to…
Home lawn and garden tips for the month of August, 2016 include practical and timely advice. Read this monthly resource for drought strategies, managing gypsy moth, adding color to the August garden, and more.
- In Massachusetts, June 2016 was a very dry month followed by July, one of the driest on record in many areas of Massachusetts; the dry weather continues into August, threatening farmers’ crops as well landscapes and home gardens. Plants require water to function and live. Many, many unirrigated trees and shrubs are drought-stressed and it is crucial that they receive water, now through the fall, until they go dormant; especially those trees defoliated by gypsy moth caterpillars. Remember to water plants deeply once or twice a week in hot, dry weather.
- Unfortunately, it was a banner year for gypsy moth caterpillars in many areas of Massachusetts. Many trees, especially oaks, were severely damaged or defoliated by the caterpillars. According to the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) Forest Health Program, 352,774 acres of defoliation were attributed to gypsy moth in 2016. View more information on gypsy moths.
- While working in the yard, be on the lookout for ground nesting wasps like yellowjackets. It has been a dry summer and many of the ground nests have not been flooded by rain and, as a result, there have been reports of numerous nests - more nests mean more wasps. View our fact sheet on yellow jackets. Also, be cautious when pruning and keep an eye out for the grayish, paper-like, football shaped nest of the bald-faced hornet (actually a wasp). http://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/baldfaced-hornet
- At this time of year, the wasp nests are large and will continue to get larger as the wasps continue to build them. Wasp nests will be active until a good, hard freeze in the fall. Most wasps are capable of stinging more than once.
- Sow seeds of beets, fennel, escarole, carrots, lettuce and radish. At the end of the month, sow spinach seeds for a fall harvest.
- Continue to weed gardens and don’t let those weeds go to seed!
- Continue to drain plants saucers and any container that retains water and is a possible breeding ground for mosquitoes. Change the water in bird baths frequently and also consider using Bti (Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis), a biological control, in standing water to manage mosquito larvae.
- Looking for color in the August garden? Consider the following perennials: Hibiscus ‘Summer Storm’; Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’; Rudbeckia fulgida var. fulgida; Heliopsis ‘Summer Sun’; Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’; Phlox paniculata.
- Annuals in containers will continue to provide color into the fall. Continue to water, fertilize, and trim back and/or remove the dead flowers to keep the plants looking healthy and performing at their best.
- Pick and cook corn at its peak of ripeness; also pick summer squash, beans, and cucumbers before they become too big. At this time of year they can mature quickly and before you know it, that zucchini is the size of a small baseball bat!
- Garlic, onions and shallots can be harvested when the tops start to turn brown. To cure, spread them on newspaper, out of direct sunlight, for 2-3 weeks in a dry, well-ventilated, warm location. Cut the tops off and do not store permanently until the necks are dry (especially if long-term storage is desired); then store them in a cool, dry location.
- Never grown garlic before? Try growing garlic by ordering soon and planting it this October for a harvest next year. Order garlic that will grow best in New England. Like many other vegetables, there is nothing like fresh, home-grown garlic!
- Monitor tomato plants for green tomato hornworms which are usually large by August. If you notice that the tomato plants are being stripped of leaves, that the tomatoes are being chewed, and you see greenish-black droppings (caterpillar ‘frass’ or excrement) on the foliage, then look for the caterpillars and handpick and destroy. They are often easier to find at night. B.t. (Bacillus thuringiensis) may also be used.
- Wait until September to fertilize lawns.
- Now, into September, is a good time to renovate or plant a lawn. Do not wait until too late in the season to try and plant grass seed.
- Vegetable garden not producing as you had hoped? Problem solved. Visit a local farmers’ market and find excellent produce and more! Also, for next year, consider joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) where you can buy local, seasonal food like fruit, vegetables, meat, eggs, etc., from a local farm. What you can buy is dependent on what the farm produces. For more information: http://www.mass.gov/agr/massgrown/csa_farms.htm
Deborah C. Swanson, Horticulturist
Subscribe to @UMassGardenClip for a daily gardening tip, plus sunrise/sunset times.
What’s that insect, disease or weed exactly? The UMass Plant Diagnostic Lab diagnoses sticky problems for a fee, which includes a written report with pest management strategies that are research based, economically sound, and environmentally appropriate for the situation. Plant Diagnostics Laboratory
The solution to many garden problems starts with checking soil pH and nutrient levels. The UMass Soil and Nutrient Testing Lab provides testing for these as well as possible problems with lead. Soil and Plant Nutrient Testing Laboratory
Check out our home lawn and garden fact sheets, which cover an array of topics.