Garden To-Do List: August In The Southwest Garden

By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer

There’s no two ways about it, August in the Southwest is scorching hot, hot, hot. It’s time for Southwest gardeners to kick back and enjoy the garden, but there are always a few August gardening tasks that just won’t wait.

Don’t give up on your Southwest garden in August, but always save energy-draining tasks for early morning before the heat of the day. Here is your garden to-do list for August.

August Gardening Task in the Southwest

Water cacti and other succulents carefully. You may be tempted to provide extra water when the temperature soars, but keep in mind that desert plants are accustomed to arid conditions and are prone to rot when conditions are too damp.

Pay extra attention to container grown plants, as many will need watering twice daily during late summer. Most trees and shrubs should be watered deeply once every month. Allow a hose to trickle at the drip-line, which is the point where water would drip from the outer edges of the branches.

Water plants early in the day, as the sun dries the soil quickly. Continue to feed plants regularly using a water-soluble fertilizer.

Your garden to-do list should include replacement of mulch that has decomposed or blown away. A layer of mulch will keep the soil cooler and prevent the evaporation of precious moisture.

Deadhead annuals and perennials regularly to promote continued blooming well into the fall months. Continue to keep weeds in check. Remove weeds before they bloom to minimize reseeding next year. Remove annuals that didn’t survive midsummer heat. Replace them with gazania, ageratum, salvia, lantana, or other bright, heat-loving annuals.

August is a good time to prune wayward oleander. If the plants are overgrown and too tall, cut them back to about 12 inches (30 cm.). If growth is woody or leggy, remove about one-third of the stems at the base of the shrub. Provide food and water after pruning.

What to do in summer? Grab a cold drink, find a shady spot, and think about future plans for your Southwest garden. Peruse seed catalogs, read gardening blogs, or visit a local nursery or greenhouse.

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Your End-of-Summer Garden To-Do List

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Though you may only enjoy its bounty a few times a year, gardening is actually a year-round hobby, with almost every month providing a new opportunity to tend the garden and foster its success. And August, one of the hottest months in North America, is no exception. While some gardeners long for fall around this time, others are relishing in the bounty both a vegetable and flower garden can provide. Keeping up with your garden maintenance during the hottest month of the year will assure both the health of your garden in spring and a shorter maintenance list for fall.


You have a good chance of getting rain every third day in May in the Midwest. That is just about right to keep your plants happy but not so much as to keep you from getting your gardening tasks done. Be sure to work on the good days, though, unless you do not mind being wet while working.

  • Plant asparagus if you do not already have some.
  • (Late May:) Plant members of the nightshade family.
  • Finish sowing seed for annuals.
  • Give hardy mums their first pinching back to help keep them compact for summer and fall.


Expect highs in the low- to mid-80s F and lows in the mid-50s to mid-60s. It is likely to rain 10 or 11 days this month. Take advantage of any dry, cooler days to stay ahead on your gardening chores.

  • Keep an eye out for pests such as groundhogs and rabbits so that they do not get to your harvest before you do.
  • Plant gourds outside.
  • Plant members of the nightshade family if you haven't already.
  • Finish sowing seed for annuals outside.
  • Divide spring-flowering bulbs while you can still tell where they are. Mark the location of any that you will be dividing in fall, instead, before their foliage dies back.
  • Plug gaps left behind as spring bulb plants and early-blooming perennials, such as Pasque flower, disappear with annuals.

In the vegetable garden

Perfect for salads, keep harvesting your second early potatoes
Image: Potato 'Kestrel' from Thompson & Morgan

The vegetable garden comes into its own in August, with plenty of delicious home grown produce to harvest. Here are some tasks to keep you busy this month:

  • Water sweetcorn plants regularly and feed with tomato food to get the best cobs.
  • Apply a high-potash fertiliser such as tomato food once fruits start to form on pepper, cucumber and aubergine plants.
  • Continue to feed tomato plants with a tomato fertiliser and remove lower leaves to help with air circulation and prevent disease.
  • Pinch out the top of tomato plants to concentrate the growth into the fruit that has already formed. Aim to leave 5 or 6 trusses of fruit per plant.
  • Cut back herbs to encourage a new flush of tasty leaves that you can harvest before the frost. Dry or freeze excess herbs to use in the kitchen later on.
  • Thin parsley to help it establish a good root system before winter. There should be 25cm between each plant.
  • Pinch out the tips of your runner bean plants once they reach the top of their support. This encourages side-shooting and more beans at a manageable height for picking.
  • If you're growing aubergines pinch out the growing tip once they have 5 or 6 fruits. Pick fruits while they&CloseCurlyQuotere young and shiny.
  • Limit the fruits on a squash plant to about three, but make sure these fruits are established before pinching out the surplus.
  • Spring-sown carrots and beetroot will be ready to harvest now although they can be left in the ground to keep growing.
  • Continue to harvest second early potatoes now — perfect for salads!
  • Start harvesting your maincrop potatoes as the leaves yellow and die back. Store your potatoes in hessian sacks which exclude light but allow ventilation.
  • Sweetcorn is ready to harvest when you can pop a corn with your thumbnail and the juices are milky.
  • Lift and dry onions, shallots and garlic once the foliage has flopped over and yellowed. Store them in onion bags to prevent mould developing.
  • Harvest French and runner beans little and often to prevent them from setting seed.
  • Pick runner beans regularly to prevent them becoming stringy and to make room for developing pods. Leaving mature pods to set seed can prevent further flowers developing and reduce your crop.
  • Keep harvesting courgettes before they become too big!
  • Take cuttings of herbs such as rosemary, sage or mint now to bulk up supplies. Put cuttings in moist, well-drained potting compost (one part grit to one part compost) and place in a cold frame.
  • Established clumps of chives can be divided now.
  • On a sunny day, collect seeds of herbs such as dill, fennel, caraway and chervil and dry in a warm spot out of direct sunlight. Chervil must be sown immediately.
  • Keep an eye out for potato and tomato blight and remove and destroy any affected plants immediately to prevent its spread. Read our 'How to stop blight' guide for more information.
  • Check for cabbage white butterfly eggs under brassica leaves and squash any that you find. Alternatively use nematodes to kill the caterpillars.
  • Clear away any diseased and spent foliage around your veg plants to discourage pests and diseases spreading.

Yes, winter still has a firm hold on you, but even Alaskans have garden-related chores to do in March.

It is starting to feel comfortable enough to work in the garden in Northern California in March. The month starts out rainy but becomes increasingly less so. Southern California experiences not only moderate warmth but also just a handful of rainy days in March. Of course, lack of rainfall is a double-edged sword for the gardener.

  • Fertilize your trees and shrubs, especially camellias and other broadleaf evergreens.
  • Fertilize rose bushes, including with a handful of Epsom salts.
  • Plant summer-blooming bulbs, herbs, potatoes, and leaf crops.
  • Harden off seedlings and set them outside.
  • Remove older growth from bougainvillea vines.
  • Practice slug and snail control.
  • Divide perennial flowers that bloom in autumn.
  • Spray your fruit trees.

Watch the video: August Garden To Do List - Wisconsin Garden Video Blog 626

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