To-Do List - August

by Karen Bodner, MG


Direct sowing is always a challenge this time of year with its very hot sunny days. Shading the area, sowing with vermiculite (below and above seed), or covering with wet burlap can help avoid having to water three times a day.

Sow in pots or direct sow: arugula, overwintering onions, cabbage, cauliflower, beets, sprouting broccoli (sow in pots and transplant six weeks later), spring and Chinese cabbage, corn salad, endive, winter kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustards, scallions, spinach, radishes, and turnips.

Transplant: fall and winter cabbage, broccoli, and the Brussels sprouts you diligently started six weeks ago. Transplant Chinese cabbage and other greens after about four weeks.

Tomato blight has apparently been a problem in the area, although thankfully mine are disease-free so far. Spray tomatoes and potatoes for early and late blight if necessary. Although untried by yours truly, copper wire through the stem reportedly prevents blight, and there are sprays available in garden stores.
Fertilize fruiting plants such as cucumbers, summer squash, tomatoes (minimal N), and broccoli while harvesting to maintain production; a weekly foliar spray or root drench with manure/compost tea will speed growth. Pick vegetables when ready to encourage continued production and minimize disease. Pay special attention to summer squash, cucumbers, peas, and beans. Be sure to remove the hood when you remove pods on peas and beans; otherwise, they won't recognize that pods have been picked, and production will stop significantly early.

Beans are sensitive to heat stress and may drop blossoms in temperatures much over 86 degrees. In fact, many vegetables are affected by high temperatures and may drop blossoms or just quit growing until temps cool down. Joel Reiten from Territorial Seeds explains that pepper pollen doesn't set at high temperatures. Cool mulches and daily watering at roots of unmulched plants can help.

At the end of the month pinch blossoms from ends of squash and melons to mature existing fruit. This procedure also works for tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and zucchinis.

Perennials, herbs, and bulbs

Water beds one to two inches per week depending on whether or not they are mulched and other conditions. Keep thyme sheared back after flowering to keep it compact. Rhonda Whetham recommends cutting lavender back by half after flowering; that's what they do in France. Pick flowers for drying on dry, sunny days and hang upside down in an airy shed or room. Keep annuals and other flowers deadheaded, and feed them once a week with manure tea. Cut back leggy flower stems by one third.

Thin phlox plants to three to four stems per plant to minimize powdery mildew. Thin biennials, and divide perennials that are too crowded (e.g., daylilies and iris) or need renewing (e.g., the center of the plant has died) after blooming. Fertilize roses one more time for longer or second bloom. If your delphiniums have strong new growth, sidedress for a second bloom period.

Vegetative Propagation: Now is the time to take cuttings for your indoor winter garden-geraniums, tender herbs, impatiens and so forth. Sow hardy perennials in pots to overwinter in a coldframe or greenhouse, and plant hardy herbs like parsley. If you've been propagating soft-tipped or basal cuttings, and if you have not already put them outside, move them to a cold frame now. Semi-mature cuttings can be taken from Artemesia, Erysium, Fuchsia and many more.

Trees and shrubs

Keep an eye out for the many pests and diseases that attack our woody friends. Trees and shrubs can be planted in the summer if you must; however, Liz Lair recommends adding the following step: After the heat of the day has passed, and after the plant has been placed in the hole, fill the hole with water twice and let it drain before backfilling with soil. Water again to settle.

Spray for root weevils in ornamental shrubs and flowers, or use more some of the more Earth-friendly methods discussed in previous "To-Do" columns. Fall webworms may appear in ornamentals and shade trees. Prune nests and destroy, or spray with B.t. mixed with insecticidal soap.

Vegetative propagation:

Softwood cuttings: azaleas and rhodies, clematis, Calluna, forsythia, jasmine.

Semi-mature cuttings: as for last month. If you have semi-mature shrub cuttings that are well-rooted, pot them up in three-inch plastic pots in loam-based compost. Move them to an unheated part of the greenhouse or under shelter; after a month they can be transferred to an outside coldframe.

Soft-tipped or basal cuttings should be moved to a cold frame for planting out next month if they are not already outside. Tender varieties should be moved into an overwintering coldframe.

Pruning: Flowering trees should be pruned right after blooming to remove damaged and older wood and to trim and shape. Cut back to healthy, outward facing buds or non-flowered shoots.

Trees: Ilex, Prunus (not plums) except for P. serrulata and Japanese flowering cherry, evergreen hedge plants like laurels, Prunus laurocerasus and Laurus (clipping/trimming/shaping), Robinia, some magnolias (those that flower before or with new leaves in spring) when leaves have fully expanded, Tilia, Laburnum (up to midwinter).

Shrubs: Buddleia alternifolia, Buxus, Cytisis, Photinia (hedge), Spirea (deadhead), Rhododendron kiusianum and luteum, Magnolia x soulangiana, Syringa, Paeonia, salvia (deadhead), viburnum, and weigela.

Fruits and nuts

Apply a balanced fertilizer to strawberries, water deeply and remove old leaves. On second and third year plants, allow new runners to grow in areas between plants and remove mother plants when runners are rooted. Harvest cane, bush, and tree fruits when ripe, and remove diseased fruits to ensure optimum health and production. You can still prune suckers on fruits trees. They won't just pull off now without damaging the tree, but remember to leave one for next year's dominant apical bud to reduce the number and vigor of new sucker growth, greatly reducing winter pruning.

Grapes will benefit from summer pruning to restrict them. By pinching or pruning back surplus shoots, you will help avoid an unmanageable tangle. A good trim will also direct energy to fruit production. Prune main branches as they reach the desired length on their supports. Although wine grapes aren't usually thinned, table grapes will benefit from selective pruning of individual fruits in the bunch. As grapes ripen, remove leaves that shade the bunches.

Remove old mulch and renew-this is a good way to disrupt pest life cycles. In the first week of August spray peach and prune trees for root borers and filbert trees for filbertworm. Spray for bacterial blight in filbert trees; codling moth and spider mite in apple trees; scale insects in camellias, hollies, and maples; and walnut husk larva if noticed in previous years.

Vegetative propagation: Take softwood cuttings from blueberries using an acidic peat/sand rooting medium. Most tree fruits, including peaches, nectarines, pears, and plums, can be propagated by chip or T-bud grafting during the summer. To propagate blackberries and raspberries, place a healthy, vigorous tip in a four-inch hole; move the rooted start in late fall.

Pruning: Restricted or formally trained apple tree forms (e.g., cordons, fan espaliers) should be pruned in summer to encourage fruit buds to develop and to restrict growth. This also applies to pears, although timing is usually a week or two earlier. A modified Lorette pruning system is recommended for our climate to discourage secondary growth that may be vulnerable to cold damage. Delay this pruning until the basal one-third of new shoots have turned woody and growth is slowing-they will be ready over a two to three week period, depending on weather.

Shorten new shoots growing directly from the trunk or main branches to three leaves above the basal cluster of leaves. Prune the side shoots from existing laterals or spurs back to one bud above basal cluster of leaves. Do not prune shoots shorter than nine inches. Leaving a couple of vigorous shoots will discourage secondary growth. Your sweet and pie cherries can also be pruned now.

General Gardening

Summer is actually the best time to cut down brushy growth since growback will be weaker now than at any other time of year. Go get those blackberries! I've found mowing to be an easy and efficient way to handle large, unmanageable weedy areas or just to keep them in check until I can get to them. Just be sure to get them before they seed up.

Water container plants in the sun at least once a day in extreme heat to keep plants lush and unstressed. One suggestion for black plastic containers is to paint one side white and turn it towards the sun during summer heat. Turn the pots around if you leave them out over winter so the black side will absorb whatever heat is available.

Be sure to keep recent transplants and areas where you have direct sowed well watered. When transplanting, do it after the heat of the day has passed. Water the hole before putting the plant in, as well as after, and provide temporary shade during very hot periods.

Lawns and established beds will appreciate at least one and one-half inches of water applied in the mornings. Soil preparation can begin for planting a new lawn in late September or early October. Occasionally cultivate exposed soil and compost to keep them from crusting, and remove any newly sprouted weed seeds.

After harvesting a crop, if not immediately planting fall or winter crops, sow a quick-growing cover crop such as buckwheat, oats, or crimson clover. Let grow until a couple of weeks before working in; wait a couple of more weeks before sowing your winter crops or garlic. Otherwise, mulch with straw or compost to keep weeds down, keep soil life occupied and present, and prevent compaction or erosion. When hand watering, water between plants as well as around the roots to keep soil moisture and soil life consistent throughout the bed.


Well, our little soldiers are out in force this time of year. All stages of friend and foe roam the battlefield, and it's not always clear who is who. Twice now, I have come across a worm in contractions. On closer examination, I saw a very small rove beetle nymph with the huge worm in its clutches. I interceded, and each went its separate way.
And those dear slugs began laying their eggs again after a very short break.

Keep birdbath water refreshed daily, and why not provide water sources for your smaller critters? Small bowls throughout the garden will provide water for lots of insects, but don't make the bowls too deep. Ground beetles may be good soldiers, but they're not especially smart about water and tend to drown.

Place driftwood and flat rocks throughout your garden to provide landing places for butterflies to warm up their flying muscles. Tall driftwood branches placed vertically for climbing annuals and beans also provide popular perches for birds and dragonflies.

Remember that spraying B.t. will kill butterfly caterpillars, so be very careful if you must spray. It's best to work towards a balanced pest-predator population by creating habitats for the desired predators. Radishes are a good trap crop for flea beetles and aphids; plant them around brassicas, beans, and other pest-attractive plants. Remember that using cold compost may introduce symphyllans into your soil. Once your finished compost has stabilized at 100 degrees and there are no identifiable pieces, use it or move it into a container such as a large trash can. If the pile sits around too long, symphyllans will crawl up into the bottom layer. A simple test to determine symphyllan presence is to put a potato piece into the soil for half an hour before checking.

Aphids on your Brussels sprouts? Here's a trick I learned from Joel at Territorial. When about three-quarters of the bottom sprouts are ripe, pinch out the top bunch of leaves. It all but eliminates any problems I have.

Mites can be controlled by daily misting or occasionally hosing off foliage and spraying with a miticide if necessary. Watch for corn earworms on early corn and treat as needed. Check lawns for presence of chinch bugs or signs of damage. Control fleas outdoors with nematodes, Sevin, or diazinon.

 A =Adult  P =Pupa  N =Nymph
 E =Egg  L =Larva Beneficials are italicized

rove beetles-A/N
western damsel bug-A/E/N
big-eyed bug-A/E/N
minute pirate bug-A/E/N
green lacewing-A/E/L
syrphid fly-A/P/L/E
tachinid parasite-A/L/E
wasp parasite-A/P/L/E
predator mite-A/N/L/E
cinnabar moth-A/L/E
honey bees-A/P/L/E
alfalfa leafcutting bee-A/P/L/E

onion thrips-A/N/E
carrot rust fly-A/P/L/E
green peach aphid-A/N
wireworm beetle-A/P/L
cucumber beetle-A/P/L/E
asparagus beetle-A/P/L
variegated cutworm-A/L/E
western cherry fruit fly-A/P/L
peach twig borer-A/P/E
peachtree borer-A/L/E
apple aphids-A/N
codling moth-A/E/L
corn earworm-A/P/L/E
imported cabbageworm-A/P/L/E
cabbage looper (adult nocturnal)-A/L/E
cabbage maggot-A/P/L/E
cabbage aphid-A/N
cabbage flea beetle-A/P
pear sawfly-A/L/E
pear psylla-A/N/E
root weevil-A/L/E
spider mites-A/N/L/E
pea weevil-A
greenhouse whiteflies-A/N/E
elm leaf beetle-A/P/L/E
bark beetle-P/L
white grub beetles-A/L
bean and currant aphids-A/N
stink bugs-N/E
pea aphid-A/N
western flower thrips-A/N/E
onion maggots-A/P/L/E
filbert leafroller-A/E
raspberry crown borer-A/P/L
strawberry aphid-A/N
holly and soft scale-N
rose leafhopper-A/N
strawberry crown moth-A/L
western raspberry fruitworm-A
San Jose scale-A/N/E
oystershell scale-N
walnut husk fly-A/L/E
sod webworm-A/L
fall webworm-L/E
boxelder bug-A/N
seed corn maggot-A/P/L
spinach leafminer-A/P/L/E
western potato flea beetle-A/L/E

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