August: To Do in the Garden

By Gary Crispell, EMGV

Bye, bye July!  Me thinks it didst burn itself out…literally.  There have been hotter ones, like the year we had two weeks’ worth of triple digit ambient temperatures.  And can someone please explain why all of our rain has been falling on Raleigh?  Have you noticed?  The stuff comes screaming out of Greensboro across Alamance County and when it gets to Orange County it divides itself and some goes to Roxboro and some goes to Raleigh.  Durham and Chapel Hill get nada.  I hope it’s not politically motivated.

So, the Accidental Cottage Garden looks August sad.  The coreopsis (C. lanceolata.  The C. verticillata didn’t come back this year.) is just about done.  The rudbeckia (R. fuldgida) has already been cut down and the balloon flower (Platycodon grandiflorus) is next on that list.  The butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is trying a second bloom with limited success.  A dark orange daylily (Hemerocallis x August Flame) is providing a grand display right next to a black-eyed Susan whose specific name I have yet to discern.  The only other bright spots right now are the blanket flower (Gaillardia pulchella) and purple cone flower (Echinacea purpurea).  We had a fun time with the grandkids watching some black swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes) larvae devour the parsley plant before disappearing to become butterflies.

Wait! What?  You thought this was a gardening calendar column?  Really?!?  Well, excuuuuse me.  I’ll see can I get right to that.  (Ain’t much to do in August anyway.)


Scope out the lawn for grubs.  Treat ‘em if you find ‘em.  Otherwise, leave the sprayer hanging in the shed.  Late in the month you can prepare areas the need to be seeded with cool season grass (fescue, Kentucky bluegrass—not the kind with banjos and fiddles.  Save them for the IBMA in September.)


If you have strawberries hit them with a little nitrogen.  DO NOT fertilize trees or shrubbery again until December.


If you are a start-them-from-seed kind of person then by all means get to it.  Sow pansy seeds in flats to be set out in September.  Perennials like hollyhock (Alcea rosea), larkspur (Delphinium elatum and a host of other specific names) & Stokes’ aster (Stokesia laevis) seeds can be sown now to get a jump on healthy plants in the Spring.  Plant a Fall garden.  Root crops E.g., beets, turnips, rutabagas and radishes are good to plant now as are many salad greens E.g., Chinese cabbage, kale, lettuce, arugula & mustard.  Other fast-growing veggies that are fine to plant now are squash and cucumbers.  That should keep you in fresh produce until after Thanksgiving.


Fuhgeddaboudit.  No more pruning until the end of November.  You get a pass if a hurricane not associated with PNC Arena should pay a visit.


Same stuff as last month.  Look for spider mites on coniferous evergreens (juniper, arborvitae, Leyland cypress, etc.), lace bugs on azaleas and pyracantha and aphids on anything green.  Maintain your spray programs for roses, fruit trees and bunch grapes.  Look for worms on cruciferous vegetables (cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.) and borers on squash.  Only spray when necessary and follow the directions on the label.


It is still okay to take cuttings of shrubbery.


Check over your landscape plan (I just know you have one.)  so you will be ready for the Fall planting season.  If (when?) the August thunderstorms skip your yard try not to run the well dry nor to seriously deplete Lake Michie or Little River Reservoir.  You could build a compost bin.  Dig Irish potatoes.  (I dig ‘em roasted with olive oil and tarragon.)  Stay cool and hydrated.  I had hoped not to be repeating this by now, but wear your mask and wash your hands.  The fat lady has not sung yet.  If we all do the right thing it will make life easier sooner.

Central North Carolina Planting Calendar for Annual Fruits, Vegetables, and Herbs

Organic Lawn Care Guide

North Carolina Extension Gardener Handbook – Starting Plants from Seed (Sexual Propagation)

Learn more about insects and how to control them from the North Carolina Extension Gardener Handbook

NC Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox (find your perfect plant or figure out what that unknown weed is!)