August, Dog Days of Summer: To Do
If you print out this page, you should get little boxes
where the bullets are, making this a check list.
Oh, and if you really think that I actually do all of these
things, you are terribly confused. Sometimes I even (gasp)
do things that aren't on this list.
I know this list is accurate for Sunset Zone 14,
specifically, and I think it is good for all of USDA Zone 9. In
addition, it is probably pretty accurate for USDA Zones 8-11,
and other gardeners on the 'net have told me that it applies all
the way to USDA zone 7.
What is August like? August is hot and dry. On some days, the
fog comes rolling in in the evenings, and then it can be like
heaven. So cool and moist. It is the best time of the year to
enjoy the evening outdoors. Unfortunately, the fog burns off
in the early morning, so the days are dry and dessicating, and
when we don't get the fog, it will only cool off to 85°F
(29° C). And compared to 110° F (43° C), I suppose
that is cool, but it isn't much of a break for my plants. Don't
forget to wear a hat and drink lots of water.
- Order stock for fall planting:
- Trees and shrubs. Good shade trees are camphor tree,
Chinese hackberry, Chinese pistache, Japanese pagoda tree,
ornamental pear, Raywood ash, and red oak.
This year, 1997, we decided to cut down the cottonwood
in our backyard. Although ours was a beautiful tree,
I do not recommend cottonwoods; they have shallow roots, and
they sucker like crazy. We have ordered a paperbark
maple to replace it. Okay, so we will still have
shallow roots, but this tree is beyond beautiful. It
has pealing red bark, and it turns a splendid red in the
fall, even in Livermore, CA, USDA zone 9, Sunset Zone
It is still too warm in the fall in Sunset Zone 14 to
plant roses, in my opinion. I strongly suggest that
you wait until December to order and January to
plant bareroot roses.
- Ornamental grasses
- Hardy bulbs; store in refriderator until planting time.
- Make sure new plantings of all types get plenty of
- Water established plants as needed.
We just went through a heat wave (1997). It was 104
° F (40.3 C) the first day, 106
° F (41.4 C) the second day, and 102
° F (39.2 C) the third day. After a very
hot period like this, it is a good idea to water
all of your established plants. They are
probably suffering from heat stress, and a big,
cool drink will make them feel and look better.
- Deep water trees. If you haven't watered your mature
trees they may be suffering from drought stress. Deep
water once per week or two (the hot climates should
stick to once per week). Water established drought
tolerant trees once per month.
- Azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias, fuchsias, and
hydrangeas need lots of water to keep their shallow
roots from drying out.
- Water grasses and ground covers when necessary.
It gets so hot here, and it is dry. Some people water
their lawns twice a day when the temperatures hover at
100 F (38 C). So necessary is going to have different
meanings depending on your environment. Be sure to
check lawns by paved areas.
- Water container plants as needed. It might be
necessary to water 2x/day during HOT weather.
The soil in a pot should feel slightly damp to your
finger. If you wait until
the plants start to wilt, it is too late. This may mean
watering twice a day.
- Water kitchen garden as needed. Water vulnerable
crops before they show signs of stress.
- Deep water fruit during dry spells (ha, ha, like all
- Fertilize - Except for acidic fertilizer, I use the
same fertilizer on all my plants. That is, I don't
pay any attention to the numbers on the labels. I
am not convinced that spending money on several
different fertilizers really makes that much of a
difference. However, it should be noted that I am
not a veggie grower. OTOH, I have used veggie
fertilizer on my flowers with good results.
Make sure you water the day before feeding, and don't feed
on very hot days.
- Feed spring bloomering shrubs that are now setting buds.
- Fertilize roses to encourage fall blooming and check
leaves (yellow leaves with green veins) to
see if iron chelate is needed.
The exception is once blooming old roses. If
those roses have finished their summer bloom (I
still recommend checking for an iron
deficiency), there is
no need to fertilize, although it won't hurt if you
do. If you have an
old rose that is a repeat bloomer, you should
feed it so that it blooms well this fall.
- Fertilize the lawn
- Feed chrysanthemums and fuchsias and all other
perennials about to bloom.
Check leaves to see if iron chelate is needed.
- Feed azaleas, camellias, hydrangeas, and rhododendrons
with an acid type fertilizer.
- Fertilize summer bulbs like dahlias and glads to nutrify
corms, tubers, and bulbs for next year. Continue to
- Annuals, if needed
- Feed container plants.
- Vegetables, if needed give plants a boost with a
dressing dose of
quick-acting high-nitrogen fertilizer, but if using a
powder or granules, be sure to water in thoroughly.
- Fertilize berries or top-dress with compost.
- Feed citrus.
- Feed houseplants regularly both those indoors and those
enjoying the season outdoors.
- Lay fresh mulch
- Weed, weed, weed.
- Watch for pests and signs of disease.
- The following are vulnerable to fungus and mildew:
mums, roses, crape myrtle, verbena, and zinnias.
Remove affected leaves as soon as you spot them.
My mother read an article on mildew and plants
that said that mildew is not a problem on plants
that get sprayed regularly. I have examined my
garden, and I noticed that the lower leaves of
my roses, which are sprayed regularly from my
sprinkler system, do not have mildew, but the
upper leaves (over 3 feet) do.
- The war on snails never ends.
- Tomato hornworms and petunia budworms can be treated
with a "Caterpillar Killer" (BT is the main ingredient).
This is an effective, evnironmentally safe, biological
control. However, you can kill all caterpillars,
including monarch butterfly larvae, so be careful where
you apply it.
- Aphids and spidermites can be "washed" from your plants
with a strong spray from the hose. Be sure to get the
underside of the leaves as much as possible.
- Mosquito control:
- stock fish in all standing water.
- b-b-que with rosemary and sage.
- check your yard for containers that hold water, like old
cans, jars, tires.
- keep unnecessary pools of water (like watering cans)
- Check your pets drinking water every day.
- Empty birdbaths and wading pools regularly.
- FIRE PREVENTION:
The house you save will probably be your own.
Clear all dry brush and volunteer
grasses to at least 30 feet from you house. Remove or thin
chaparral growth, but leave native trees and large shrubs to
hold the hillside. Occassional summer irrigations will help
to prevent the leaves from drying out.
Please, please, clear your land, and get your neighbors to
clear theirs. While it won't stop a firestorm in its full
fury, clearing dry, dead brush and grass goes a long way in
preventing fires from starting and spreading.
Trees and Shrubs
- Plant palms and tropical plants. Conditions are dry enough to
discourage root rot.
- Trim hedges, topiaries, and espaliers.
- beech, holly, hornbeam, and yew
- most evergreen hedges
- Maple leaves get burnt from heat and from wind. Strip off
the damaged leaves and feed. The maple will leaf out again in 3
to 4 weeks.
- Remove dead flowers from hydrangeas, crape myrtles, and other
summer blooming shrubs.
- Prune summer shrubs when they have finished blooming.
- Prune water sprouts and suckers from young trees.
- Take cuttings from azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias, and other
shrubs to start new plants.
- Pick up dropped leaves. This will go a long ways to preventing
reinfestations of blackspot.
- Watch for pests and signs of disease.
- Last year, 1996, was a terrible one for me wrt rust and
Robert was spraying them with a fungicide every 10 days.
It worked, but we still had a little blackspot.
- Spider mites: mottled leaves and fine webs indicate the
presence of spider mites. Spray undersides of leaves with
insecticidal soap, lightweight summer (horitcultural) oil,
or a stronger miticide or malathion.
To discourage mites, keep foliage
clean by rinsing both sides with water. This is an
that I saw on rec.gardens.
- Mildew grows very well when you have hot days and cool nights.
Almost everyone that I know is battling mildew in August.
The best that I can recommend is to cut off the affected
- Prune ramblers and other once bloomers when bloom is finished.
Lawns and Ground Covers
- Lay sod for warm-season lawns.
I have heard that it is just too hot and dry to do this
right now. I have no lawn experience (except removal),
but my sister tried to put down sod in the summer once,
and she was only partially successful.
- Mow lawn weekly unless the grass is very dry.
- Weed ground cover areas if necessary.
- Aerate and renovate entire lawn if soil is compacted
and shedding water faster than it is absorbed.
- For fall overseeding, a late summer aeroation or dethatching
- Deadhead faded flowers unless you want plants to self-sow.
Fuchsias will not bloom again if they set seeds, so it is
particularly important to get the entire flower head.
- Cut back early bloomers as foliage begins to die back.
- Divide crowded spring bloomers.
- shasta daisies
- Take semi-ripe cuttings
- Take fuchsia cuttings.
- Plant colchicums, to flower in autumn.
- Layer border carnations.
- Transplant primrose seedlings into their flowering positions in
beds and borders.
- Prune kiwi vines back to 4 or 5 buds.
- Prune wisteria back to 2 buds on all unwanted stems.
Train the stems you leave before they twist around each other.
- Plan for Fall.
- Choose flowers to plant: achillea, aster, begonia, coreopsis,
dahlia, sdaylily (some), fortnight lily, common geranium,
lantan, limonium perezii, Mexican bush save, scabios, and
- renew soil in beds by digging in compost, leaf mold, and
some rock phosphate or bonemeal.
- Sow seeds of campanula and primrose
- Deadhead faded flowers or shear back plants to promote reblooming.
- Remove and replace worn-out plants.
- Remove but do not compost mildewed plants.
- Prepare soil for fall planting.
- You can still plant seeds or set out transplants in early
August of ageratum,
sweet alyssum, calendulas, celosia, columbine, cosmos,
gaillardia, Iceland poppy, Madagascar periwinkle, marigolds,
sun flowers, snapdragons, stocks, sweet peas, vinca, violas
and zinnias in the sun, and pansies
in part shade.
- In late August, sow seeds of California poppy, Bachelor
Button, Alyssum, and Clarkia.
- In late August, plant campanulas, dianthus, foxgloves, hollyhocks,
poppies, and sweet peas.
- Annual larkspur should be refrigerated until outdoor temperatures
dip to 40°F. Plant them outdoors to bloom in spring.
- Harvest vegetables, herbs, and cut flowers from container
- Remove and replace worn-out plants.
- Deadhead faded flowers.
- Train climbers.
- Trim and train topiaries
Kitchen Garden: Vegetables and Herbs
- Keep up on harvest. Try to pick early in the day when veggies
and plants are fresh.
- cut herbs like rosemary, sage, and thyme to dry or freeze
- Lift shallots and onions as they become ready.
Leave shallots on the surface for a few days to dry off
if the weather is damp (ha, ha).
- Search bean, squash and tomatoes for ripe veggies.
- Corn is ready when the tassels have withered and the kernels
are well formed. They will squirt a milky juice when poked.
- Sow cool-season crops indoors for fall planting:
beets, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower,
chard, lettuce, onions, peas, radishes, and spinach.
- Pull spent crops
- Turn compost pile.
- Check stakes and supports on tall plants and climbing
- Take cuttings of perennial herbs to start new plants.
Strip all but the top 3-5 leaves from a 4-6 inch tip and
plant in potting soil in the shade. Some plants to take are:
scented geraniums, lemon verbena, and rosemary.
- Continue to thin vegetables sown earlier, before
they become large enough to compete with each
- Pinch out the growing tips of runner beans when they
reach the top of their support.
- Pay regular attention to outdoor tomatoes
- Continue to pinch out flower stems of herbs for the leaf
harvest. See June's To Do list for
- Harvest ripe fruit
- Cut brambles back to ground after harvest.
You might have done this last month.
- Pick up dropped fruit and fallen leaves.
If the dropped fruit is near your
house, it might encourage ants to form colonies near your house.
- Summer prune cordon and espalier apples if not already done
so shoots are mature enough. Remove diseased or injured limbs
but wait until dormancy for severe pruning.
- Tidy up summer-flowering strawberries that have
finished fruiting. Cut off old leaves and unwanted
runners, remove straw, and control weeds.
- Protect fruit against birds if they are troublesome.
A fruit cage is ideal.
- Prop up branches (like apples) on heavy-bearing trees.
House, greenhouse, or conservatory plants
- Sow spring-flowering plants such as cyclamen, schizanthus, and
- Take leaf and semi-ripe cuttings like chrysanthemums
for flowers next fall.
- Remove sideshoots and yellowing leaves from cordon tomatoes
- Pot up and pot on seedlings pot-plants as it becomes
- Plant hyacinths for early flowering under glass.
- Check cinerarias for leaf miners (white tunnels
in the leaves). Remove (do not compost).
- Pinch back plants that are spending the summer outside.
- Pinch chrysanthemums (indoor plants for fall and winter) one last
- Take cuttings from geraniums, lantana, poinsettias for
winter bloom indoors.
To Do Index
- Check all drips and sprinkler heads for propper operations.