It’s August, and the tomatoes are finally ripening on the vine, the perennials are rampant and, surprisingly, my spring pansies are still holding on. Weeds, too, are digging their heels in, a constant reminder that the garden doesn’t ever go on autopilot, even if it appears that way. Here are 31 tips and chores to ensure the garden doesn’t look tired by month’s end.
1. Resist the urge to let zucchini grow big; they’re tastier and more tender if picked when small.
2. Sanitation is important for a healthy garden: Clean up fallen fruit from around trees to prevent pest infestations.
3. To help avoid heat wilt, mist leaves of hybrid tea roses with liquid seaweed.
4. Send a photo of yourself with your tomatoes, along with your growing strategy, to firstname.lastname@example.org. The 2017 Tomato Challenge is just two weeks away!
5. For best flavor, harvest herbs in midmorning just after the dew has dried.
6. If you need to relocate evergreens, it’s safe to do so from now through October.
7. When watering the lawn, remember: Less frequent deep waterings trump daily sprinkles on established turf.
8. For a second harvest this fall, plant cool-season crops like lettuce, radishes, spinach and peas now.
9. Keep mower blades set to 3 or more inches. Grass blades are leaves, which need to photosynthesize; cut them too short and they’ll stress.
10. No need to panic if your evergreens’ innermost branches begin to brown. It’s normal for older branches to shed this time of year.
11. Re-edge beds to give a fading garden a face-lift.
12. Harvest rose hips for tea or jam — as long as you haven’t sprayed your plants.
13. Transplant spring-flowering bulbs that are crowded or needed elsewhere in the garden.
14. Turn off pond pumps when electrical storms are in the forecast.
15. If cabbage heads split, harvest immediately or they’ll become inedible.
16. Monitor moisture levels in containers often; potted plants may need to be watered twice a day.
17. Harvest onions when their tops flop over, but let them cure in the sun for a few days before storing indoors.
18. Join me at 7 p.m. for the Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday (235 Pinelawn Rd., Melville). Bring your biggest homegrown tomato and you might be crowned king or queen.
19. Want free plants next year? Take cuttings of geraniums and wax begonias, and root indoors now. Then care for them as houseplants until spring.
20. Harvest beets when 2 inches wide. You can saute and eat the leaves, too (this is not the case for tomatoes or carrots, which have toxic foliage.)
21. Order spring bulbs now, before the best ones sell out. They’ll be shipped in time for fall planting.
22. Collect seeds from day lilies, spider plants, rose campions and other perennials that produce pods. Store in a paper envelope in the fridge, away from fruit, until spring.
23. This is the best time to renovate the lawn. Remove dead patches, aerate, apply compost and seed. Water deeply once, then sprinkle twice a day until 3 inches tall.
24. Don’t let weeds go to seed; pull them out by their roots.
25. If houseplants kept outdoors for summer have outgrown their containers, repot now.
26. If you can, leave standard and plum tomatoes on the vine until fully ripe; they’ll taste better. Cherry tomatoes ripen just fine on the counter.
27. Divide crowded daylilies after they’ve stopped blooming.
28. Divide and transplant overgrown and crowded peonies, keeping “eyes” no more than an inch or two below the soil surface.
29. Plant a clover cover crop in cleared-out vegetable beds for a burst of natural nitrogen next spring when you turn it over.
30. Shop end-of-season sales for plant deals — but be choosy; they’ve been sitting in pots all season.
31. Move outdoor potted plants into the shade to ease them into a move indoors next month. Water as usual.