August in the garden is filled with harvesting and enjoying the fruits (or veggies) of your labor. Tomatoes should be turning red and tasty. Red, yellow, and green sweet bell peppers can be stuffed and baked or sliced and served fresh on salads. If you have grown spicy hot chili and habanero peppers, combine them with diced tomatoes plus onions and cilantro for a salsa fresca. August is the time for a food fiesta.
Late-Summer Gardening Tips
During this typically hot and dry time of year, add a layer of straw mulch to your garden to keep your soil cool and moist and deter weeds. You can shield your plantings with row cover, which will provide some shade. This row cover also shields plants from cold, wind and insects. That gives home gardeners the ability to prolong their growing season and start their crops earlier in the spring with up to 6 degrees of frost protection.
Fall Planting Preparation
Although it is a time when you should be enjoying a bountiful harvest from your garden, August is also a good month to start planning and planting your fall garden. Among other things, you will need to think about what to plant in fall garden layouts and when to plant fall garden seeds and seedlings. Here are some fall gardening tips from DripWorks to help you extend your growing season and get the most out of your autumn gardening.
You will need to know which fall garden plants are hardy and do better in cold weather in your region. You should look online for a plant hardiness zone map to check when the average first frost date is expected in your area. Then count back on a calendar to the date when you hope to plant. That way you can see if the plants you want to grow will have enough time to grow.
Do not overlook your local garden center. The staff members there can be an incredible resource to get advice on what to plant. They live, work and garden in your area, after all, so they will know what works and what does not.
The more you garden, the more knowledge you will gain. The following is a partial list of vegetables for your garden that could do well if planted in the coming weeks.
Fall Vegetable Candidates
Lettuce is one veggie that does not do well in the hot summer months. Putting some lettuce plants in now will give you two or three months of fresh lettuce.
Peas and beans are often grown with lettuce as a companion plant. If you like to cook or season Mexican dishes, cilantro is easy to grow. These plants can be sown directly in your garden soil.
Fall Root Crops
Red, purple, or orange carrots are a favorite crop to plant in August. They grow quickly and should be ready to harvest by mid to late October. Spread the seeds thinly in rows, water (Soaker Dripline is an excellent drip irrigation product for raised beds) and mulch. Then come back in 10 to 14 days to thin the sprouts to three or four inches apart.
Beets love the cool weather and early rains that come in September and October. They are a fast-growing, sweet, and tasty addition to any salad or smoothie. Beets are a root crop that should be planted six inches apart.
At our house, we love beet salad. We make it by boiling the beets, then refrigerating them and cutting them into one-inch cubes to add to green salads.
Beets will be ready to harvest by early November. A layer of mulch is a good idea to protect the plants from an early frost.
Kale and Swiss chard can handle temperatures down to the mid-20s. They will usually last through the winter with a layer of mulch.
I am still eating from last year's chard and kale plants. I recommend buying starts of dinosaur kale and rainbow chard.
Plant them in a well-drained sunny location two or three feet apart. Both kale and chard can be steamed, sautéed, or added to smoothies with carrots and beets for a very nutritious and tasty sweet treat.
Broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts are rich sources of vitamin A, potassium, iron and fiber. These members of the Brassica family will grow best if planted in full sun 18 inches apart.
Usually, I buy six-packs of starts and plant them in rich garden soil. If you have a mild winter and protect them with row cover or start them in a cold frame, they may come back in the spring.
Cabbage likes to grow in cool climates, like coastal areas. Here in northern California, it grows best when planted in the early spring and harvested in June.
Cabbage is a great source of vitamins C and K and dietary fiber. If you grow organically, you can enjoy this veggie pickled, steamed, sautéed or made into coleslaw using either the red or green variety.
Cabbage likes full sun and sandy to loamy soil like mushroom compost or potting mix. These plants are heavy feeders. If you dig a trench eight to 10 inches deep and wide and fill it with garden compost and organic bagged soil, they will flourish.
Keep the soil evenly moist using drip tape, Soaker Dripline or Emitter Tubing, and plant the seeds or seedlings 18” to 24” apart. Because it often rains in the fall, keep the plants mulched to discourage weeds.
Simple No-Mayo Coleslaw Recipe
Yesterday, I cut a head of cabbage and added some carrots and a big red onion harvested in June to create the following delicious vegan coleslaw:
- 1 head of red or green cabbage
- 3 large carrots
- 1 red onion
- 1 cup of chopped parsley
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 cup chopped parsley
- 3 tbsp sweet mustard
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 6 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
Shred the cabbage or thinly cut slices to two inches long
Grate carrots and add to cabbage and parsley in a bowl; mix well
Shake dressing well in a jar and pour over cabbage and veggies and toss
Autumn Gardening Tips by U.S. Region
In milder parts of the country, fall does not necessarily mean the end of your gardening season. In warm places like southern Florida, for instance, it is just beginning. Many gardeners start to plant in earnest there in October. Even in cooler climates such as coastal California and the Pacific Northwest, fall provides a time to plant veggies that can survive the winter.
Some good candidates include garlic and fava beans. Both are easy to grow and will provide hopeful signs of green during the drab and dreary winter months.
In the summer, they will provide many delicious meals too. In addition, fava beans can help improve your garden for next year's planting. They fix nitrogen from the air into the soil and help protect it from ground compaction.