August brings mixed feelings to the garden: We’re thrilled to see plump, ripe tomatoes clinging to their vines, and perennials in full bloom, but we know we’ve reached the apex and the road ahead is downhill. Here’s a chore or tip for each day of the month to help extend the joys of a bountiful summer.
1. The Great LI Tomato Challenge is coming! Send pictures and your growing strategy to firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Keep lawnmower blades set no lower than 3 inches; any lower and you’ll risk interfering with the grass’ photosynthesis.
3. Harvest zucchini before they get too big; smaller ones are tastier and more tender.
4. Order peonies to ensure they arrive by prime planting time next month.
5. It’s time to plant lettuce, radishes, spinach, peas, collards and other cool-season crops for a fall harvest.
6. If cabbage heads split, bring them indoors as soon as possible. Left outdoors, they’ll become inedible.
7. Stop pruning evergreens, but start relocating those you’d like to move.
8. Tidy up garden beds with fresh edging.
9. For the best flavor, leave tomatoes on the vine until fully ripened.
10. Give hybrid tea roses a sip of liquid seaweed to protect against heat wilt.
11. In the absence of rain, check moisture levels in potted plants twice daily; water when soil is dry.
12. Are the innermost branches of evergreens turning brown? Relax, that’s normal for summer.
13. Harvest unsprayed rose hips and make tea or jam.
14. If electrical storms are in the forecast, remember to turn off pond pumps.
15. Keep pulling weeds as you see them — before they spew seeds around the garden. Then mulch the soil to prevent new ones from taking hold.
16. Harvest beets when they’re 2 inches wide. Roast in foil and saute their greens separately for two side dishes from one plant.
17. Remove diseased foliage from plants and place in the trash.
18. Keep deadheading annuals and perennials. Many will reward you with repeat blooms.
19. Divide Japanese and Siberian iris.
20. Move potted tropicals and outdoor houseplants to a shady spot to help prepare them for their move indoors early next month.
21. Take cuttings of geraniums and wax begonias, and root indoors now. Care for them as houseplants until spring, then plant outdoors in pots or directly in the garden.
22. Clean up fallen fruit from around trees to prevent disease and discourage rodents and other pests.
23. Harvest onions when their tops flop over, then allow them to cure in the sun for a few days.
24. Divide and transplant peonies, keeping eyes no more than an inch or two beneath the soil.
25. If you’d like to relocate spring-flowering bulbs, transplant them now.
26. Divide crowded day lilies.
27. It’s time to renovate the lawn: Rake out dead patches, aerate, apply compost and seed. Water deeply once, then sprinkle lightly twice a day until filled in.
28. If houseplants vacationing outdoors for the summer have outgrown their containers, repot now.
29. Collect seeds from day lilies, Cleomes, Rose Campions and other podding plants. Store in a paper envelope in the fridge, away from fruit, until spring.
30. Join me at 7 p.m. for the 12 annual Great LI Tomato Challenge at Newsday (235 Pinelawn Rd., Melville). Just bring your best homegrown tomato — and you might be crowned king or queen!
31. Place your spring bulb orders now, before your selections sell out.