University of Vermont
Department of Plant and Soil Science

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KEEPING COMPOST MOIST AND OTHER AUGUST GARDENING TIPS

Leonard Perry, UVM Horticulturist
and Charlie Nardozzi, Garden Consultant

Keeping a compost pile moist during drought, hastening tomato ripening, and ordering spring bulbs for fall planting are some of the gardening activities for this month.

With much of our region abnormally dry this summer, or with only light rain showers, compost piles may be quite dry.  To remain active, they need to be moist.  Take a hose to the compost pile and moisten the materials to keep them decomposing. Use a compost fork to mix the ingredients, moving the stuff around the outside of the pile into the middle where most of the decomposition takes place.

Don't rely on nature to provide enough water for trees and shrubs that you've planted this spring or summer.  Deep watering once a week will encourage deep roots, which better withstand droughts and better anchor trees.

To hasten ripening of already set tomatoes, remove new blossoms as they form. Chances are the new blossoms won't have time to mature before frost, and they will take energy away from the developing fruit. Don't prune the branches because they are shading and protecting fruits from the hot summer sun.

Late summer is a good time to order spring flowering bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils, from catalogs or online, if you haven’t already.   The selection is often greater than at local stores, although garden stores usually have plenty in September if you can wait and aren’t too particular.  Even though catalog orders will be received now, they will be shipped at the appropriate time for planting in fall. Just keep a copy of your order so you know what's coming.

Keep up with harvest of all your produce, giving excess to friends or your local food shelf.  In particular, keep squash and zucchini picked while young, or they’ll get too large to use.  If your pickling cucumbers do get too large, consider making watermelon-type pickles with them instead of the traditional dill pickles. 

If you have some bare spots in the garden after peas are finished, beans are harvested or garlic is dug, sow some beets, spinach, and fall lettuce. You can even start snow peas and beans for a modest fall crop. Soak the pea seeds overnight to hasten germination.

As you remove spent plants from your garden beds, if you’re not planting a fall crop, sow a cover crop such as winter rye. This will help reduce weed infestation, minimize erosion and compaction from fall rains, and will add nutrients and organic matter to the soil when it is tilled under next spring.
   
‘Honorine Jobert’ is a Japanese anemone with white flowers, and has been named the Perennial Plant of the Year for 2016 by the Perennial Plant Association.  Hardy to USDA zone 4 (-20 to -30 degrees F minimum in winter), it has poppy-like single white flowers.  These are two to three inches wide, on wiry branched stems above the leaves in late summer.  In the north, this perennial prefers sun but will tolerate part shade.  It is an heirloom hybrid of several species, dating back to 1858 in Verdun, France.
   
Other gardening activities for this month include keeping hummingbird feeders filled and cleaned regularly, visiting farmers’ markets, freezing vegetables for winter, making tomato sauce and pesto and fruit pies to freeze, and visiting—even entering crops you grew—in local fairs.

(Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally known horticulturist, author, gardening consultant, and garden coach; gardeningwithcharlie.com).

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