A fun project to do with your children or grandchildren: make a house of sunflowers and morning glories.
Sunflower houses are not an exact science, which is a great part of their charm. All you need are the flower seeds and a patch of open ground that gets plenty of sunshine.
Choose a sunflower that grows tall but also makes some branches, rather than an old-fashioned type that goes straight up and then hangs its heavy head. ‘Giant Sungold’, ‘Soroya,’ and the pale-flowered ‘Moonwalker’ are good choices. Make sure the morning glories are the climbing sort; it’s hard to beat good old ‘Heavenly Blue’ in this situation.
Wearing gloves, use agricultural lime to draw the shape of your house on the grass. (Don’t make it too small. When the plants are full grown, the walls will be about 3 feet thick.) Following the line, remove a foot-wide strip of sod. Enrich the exposed soil with some compost and well-rotted manure.
After all danger of frost is past, plant sunflowers about 3 feet apart, arranging a triangle of seeds at each location and spacing the seeds in the triangle about 2 inches apart. (Don’t forget to leave space for the door!)
When the sunflowers have four leaves, cut off the weaker extras. You should now have single, strong plants, spaced evenly around your perimeter. Wait until they’re 2 feet tall, then plant morning glories every 4 inches or so in the spaces between them. When the vines sprout, use thin twigs to train them toward the sunflowers.
Resist the temptation to fertilize. Sunflowers that grow tall too quickly are prone to falling over; and morning glories that get lots to eat make leaves instead of flowers.
It’s a cliche, but August really is the month of plenty. Almost everything you’ve sown, planted, and nurtured through the spring and early summer will be coming to fruition now. Daily harvests should include everything from peas beans, carrots, beets, corn, peppers, potatoes, onions, and salads to berries, currants, plums, peaches, figs, and perhaps even early apples and pears. And tomatoes!! Determinate varieties, also known as bush tomatoes, bear all their fruit within the space of two weeks, so August is the month to put up your tomato store for the entire winter — whether you can or freeze them, or make spaghetti sauce instead.
Top tasks for August
- Harvest your last broad beans and your first corn, plus summer fruiting vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, chilies, and eggplants.
- Check French beans, runner beans, and zucchinis every day, and harvest them regularly. They seem to double in size overnight.
- Pick plums, greengages, and blackberries, and perhaps your first apples, pears, and figs.
- Sow your last batch of carrots and turnips for this year, plus Japanese onion seeds and spring cabbages for next year.
- Feed your pumpkins if you want to produce Halloween giants.
- Dry out garlic, onions, and shallots so that they can be stored for the winter.
- Check potatoes and tomatoes for signs of blight, and spray in warm, humid weather.
Sow or plant in August
There is not much you can still sow or plant now in time for harvesting this year. Perhaps a few lettuces and salad leaves, and some of the faster-growing roots and leaf vegetables. That’s about it. However, space on your plot should become vacant once broad beans, onions, and shallots are all finished, so you can begin to plant out overwintering crops such as brussels sprouts, spring cabbages, and winter cauliflowers.
August pests & diseases
- Carrot flies are laying their eggs again this month. Protect crops with fleece or physical barriers.
- Slugs and snails still need to be controlled, especially in wet summers and immediately after rain when the ground is damp.
- Powdery mildews can be a problem in warm, dry summers, particularly on peas, zucchini, squashes, and cucumbers. Regular watering and a fungicide spray may help.
- Spray potatoes and tomatoes against blight, especially if it’s very humid. If your crop is infected, cut down the foliage and destroy it. Lift potatoes at once — they may still be edible.
- Water tomatoes regularly to prevent splitting and blossom end rot. Take care not to splash the fruits to avoid ghost spot.
- Magnesium deficiency is often the cause of tomato or potato leaves tuning yellow between the veins. Spray with a solution of Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate).
- Check corn for smut and remove any affected cobs.
- Inspect peas for caterpillars of the pea moth feeding inside the pods. They will have laid their eggs in June or July.
- Check for blackfly on globe artichokes, beets, and broad, French, and runner beans.
- Look under cabbage and other brassica leaves for the caterpillars of cabbage white butterflies. Pick them off and squash them by hand, or spray. Keep nets in place.
- Look for brown rot on apples, pears, plums, and quinces. Remove and destroy infected fruits.
- Apple bitter pit is caused by calcium deficiency. Watering regularly and spraying with calcium nitrate solution may help.
- Pheromone traps in apple, pear, and plum trees may need their capsules to be replaced in order to continue being effective in attracting codling moths.
- Spray plums, cherries, apricots, and peaches with Bordeaux mixture or other copper-based fungicide to treat outbreaks of bacterial canker. Spray after harvesting but before pruning, and spray again next month.
- Check raspberries, blackberries, and hybrid berries for the small, yellow-brown larvae of raspberry beetles.
by OCMGA Master Gardener and Vice President Tom Wentzel
One of the major risks in handling garden chemicals is in the mixing. Pouring and measure is full of skin contact risks. Here is a method that I have tried that works well. It is based on an ordinary turkey baster injector syringe. Simply pierce the containers seal with the needle. Do not remove the seal. Draw the needed amount into the syringe, typically a tablespoon/ gallon, then squirt it into your sprayer for dilution. I have used the method for treating deciduous shrub weeds, such as buckthorn. Normally you would “paint” the cut end with herbicide concentrate. This method allows you to dispense the herbicide one drop at a time onto the cut end. This method has a lot few steps and lowers the risks of skin contact.
by OCMGA Master Gardener Vicki Schilleman
I had the pleasure of visiting the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum – University of Minnesota several years ago during a visit to Minneapolis. Located in Chaska, Minnesota, it’s a short drive from Minneapolis and well worth the trip. From the website: “The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, a top visitor attraction, is more than 1,200 acres of gardens and tree collections, prairie and woods and miles of trails. As a premier northern garden, the Arboretum was borne out of the University of Minnesota Horticultural Research Center and established in 1958, with the Men’s Garden Club of Minneapolis, Lake Minnetonka Garden Club, Minnesota State Horticultural Society and other community supporters creating the Arboretum as a gift to the University of Minnesota.”
Dahlia test garden
During my visit, I saw rosemary shrubs that were retained in the ground year-round (something I’ve not been able to duplicate even though we’re in the same climate zone). In another area, there was a huge garden of nothing but different types of dahlias that were being tested, and a kitchen garden with dozens of varieties of tomatoes. It’s also the only time I’ve ever seen a carrion flower.
Here are some gardening tips from the arboretum for the month of July: