Late July and early August are the perfect time to plant your garden so that it provides you with harvests into the colder months of the year. Planting crops like kale, collard greens, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower at this time of year will allow them to get established when the conditions are right. These plants love cooler temperatures, so the fall to winter months are usually perfect for them. Other crops can be started directly in the garden now, like beets, carrots and radishes. Radishes can even be sown through the end of September in our area.
It is possible to have planned your harvests accordingly, and you may have open space in the garden at this point but sometimes you have to make tough choices in terms of space in your garden. Plants that are dying back or looking ragged can be removed to make way for fresh fall crops. You can also prune certain plants so that you have a little more space in the garden for plantings.
Establishing your fall crops requires much of the same practices as planting at any time of year. It is extra important to keep those crops well-watered for the first couple weeks of establishment, as this time of year can be very dry and hot. Try to plant your plants early in the morning or in the evening when it’s less hot. Adding a mulch of compost or straw to the soil can also help keep temperatures down, and keep moisture in the ground
Dead heading is a practice that you can start early in the summer, but in August and late summer it becomes increasingly important. Plants have one primary goal: create viable seed. When flowers are pollinated, they begin the process of forming those seeds. Our goal as gardeners is often to slow this process down by removing the part of the plant that produces seeds. In veggie growing, that is often the fruit of the plant. When it comes to pollinator plants in the garden, this can mean clipping off old, dried flowers.
For certain common plants, deadheading is necessary to keep them looking happy. Plants like marigolds, mums, peonies and roses love consistent removal of old flowers. This encourages the plant to send more energy into the new growth and new buds, ultimately giving you more blooms for a longer period.
There is a fine line to walk when doing this, as many of our pollinator plants are important to let go to seed. When you let certain species produce viable seeds, like Echinacea, Black Eyed Susan’s, Sunflowers and many more, those seeds actually provide vital food sources for birds through the winter months. The stems of your pollinator plants are also home to many species of insects through the coldest months of the year.
We recommend clipping spent flowers up until mid-August. This will allow the plant to fully flower again and create viable seed by the time it gets too cold. Leave those dried flower stalks in your garden until well into the spring. We aim to prune most of those back by late April. Make sure you leave those clippings in your garden too, just in case there are some more pollinators waiting to come out!
Late summer is the perfect time to plant perennials like fruit trees, berry bushes, shrubs and more. Fall weather is also cooler, with consistent rain and still plenty of sun. You can plant perennials up to 6 weeks before the ground freezes, usually in mid-November in our area. Planting this type of plant in late summer allows them to grow roots and get established, giving them an early start on next seasons growth.
This can increase yields, and help the plant get acclimated to your space before the blooms appear early in the season. As always, a mulch around your newly planted perennial will help insulate the soil and can help them grow longer in cold weather. Once the plant gets established and goes dormant, that will also give you the perfect opportunity to prune your new perennial into shape.
We suggest finding plants like blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. Trees like peaches, cherries, Asian pears, and many more are adaptable to our climate. You can also sometimes find discounted specimens at big box stores and nurseries at this time of year.