August can be a challenging month for gardeners in the Juniata Valley. The heat and humidity make it tough to do a lot of outside chores, many spring vegetable plants are winding down their production and weeds seem to grow over night. However, August is a great time to plant for late fall harvest.
Vegetables that will do well if planted in early August are peas, lettuce, spinach, beets, cabbage, kohlrabi and kale. I know this looks like a list I recommended during spring, but they are all cool season vegetables and if you get them in the ground in August, they will quickly germinated and will grow well as our cooler autumn season approaches.
You will need to plant the seeds deeper than in the spring since the moisture level of the soil is lower. Also, you will need to do a really good job of mulching and watering to insure that your young seedlings will have enough moisture to grow well. Once the plants are growing well you will want to give them an application of nitrogen for a needed boost in growth. This fall crop will not be a good as your spring planting but you should be able to get a decent harvest prior to our first frost.
Thomas E. Walker
Now is also the time you need to keep a close eye on your garden plants inspecting them regularly for insects. Squash vine borers, Japanese beetles and slugs can quickly devastate your plants. Make sure you routinely clean old dying and decaying leaves from your garden plants. Old leaves make a great place for insects to hide and a great harboring site for plant diseases.
Powdery mildew is a major problem this time of year on roses, phlox and lilacs. Powdery mildew is a white dusty or talcum like powder found on their leaves. It is a fungal disease that causes minimal damage to the plants but does look unsightly. Hot humid days and nights are major factors in this fungal development. When watering, avoid applying the water to the leaves of these plants, only direct the water around the base and root areas. It also will help if you pull back the mulch from the base of these plants and thin out any old branches or canes to help in air circulation. If you do not mind using a chemical you can apply a fungicide, this will help keep the disease from spreading but will not totally get rid of the problem.
Plants that can be divided and transplanted later in the month are irises and daylilies. When transplanting, divide the clumps after they have bloomed. Make sure you leave at least three to five buds per plant. Check the root areas for signs of rot or borer damage and discard those pieces. Once you have prepared them, following division, you can replant making sure you leave 18 to 24 inches between the plants. Remember the rhizomes of the iris should only have a light covering of soil on them and make sure you replant the daylilies at the same depth as they were growing before the division. Once in the ground give them a good drink of water and if it is extremely hot, water on a regular basis this will help with their root development prior to their winter hibernation.
Thomas E. Walker is County Extension Director for Mifflin and Juniata counties and Director of the Penn State Learning Center in Lewistown.