An August checklist for your garden
When it comes to seasonal garden tasks, I seem to operate best (translation: forget to do fewer things) if I have some kind of reminder list. If that is true for you, too, here are some things on my August list.
First, some seed planting that can still be done includes carrots, kohlrabi, parsnips, beets, turnips and rutabagas. Because the soil is still pretty warm, it is important to keep the seed bed moist and cool, or germination will be spotty. I like to use several layers of newspaper on it, held down by clumps of soil or small boards, checked daily, and kept damp until the seeds sprout.
Spinach and cold-tolerant lettuce can be added to the list, but you might want to wait a week or two to plant them. Spinach is affected more by day length than temperature — it likes the shorter day length of early spring and late fall, and will produce most of the winter, with a bit of protection.
If you started seed for fall kohl crops such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale and the like, they can be transplanted when they reach the right size. If you didn't get seeds started, you can find starts at the growers market or nurseries. Keep them well watered until they are well developed.
In your landscape, you might want to try autumn crocus, or colchicum. Corms are available now and should be planted right away for September and October bloom. I love them because they give me such a pleasant surprise at this time of year. You will see no leaves, just large, crocus-like blooms that brighten up any flower bed. Next spring, leaves will appear, then disappear again in July. And in the fall, there are the beautiful flowers again! You might want to mark where you plant them, as it's easy to accidentally dig them up.
As you make the rounds in your yard, keep in mind that deadheading blooming flowers will keep them producing longer. Also, be sure to pull weeds before they go to seed and cause you a hundred headaches next year. The mission of all plants, including weeds, is to reproduce. Deadheading flowers and pulling weeds interrupts this cycle, and makes your garden more pleasant, too.
Keep an eye on your apple and pear trees. Production seems to be ahead of schedule in the Rogue Valley.
And here are a few don'ts for your reminder list. In general, it is time to cut back or stop fertilizing, including your lawn, unless you use a low-nitrogen kind. Reason: nitrogen promotes new growth, and it is not a good idea to do that at this time of year, as it sets the plants up to have new growth nipped by frost. Yes, it is hard to think of frost in the heat of August, but it will be here in six weeks or two months, if it arrives at its scheduled time.
Don't prune spring-flowering shrubs such as forsythia, rhododendron and others now. If you do, you will prune off next spring's blooms, as those flower buds have already formed. Best to wait until right after next spring's bloom period, and resolve to do it promptly after they bloom.
Despite what you read in seed catalogs and other advertising, it is too early to plant spring-flowering bulbs; our Southern Oregon soil is too warm to plant them now. If you have bulbs shipped to you, ask for a later ship date. If that isn't possible, keep the bulbs refrigerated until late October or November.
And the final thing on my list is to remember to enjoy the fruits of my labor. And as I sip a glass of iced tea and enjoy my fall-bearing raspberries, I keep a pencil and paper at hand, to make plans for next year. After all, that's what gardening is about, isn't it?
Carol Oneal is a past president of the OSU Jackson County Master Gardeners Association. Email her at email@example.com.