man watering vegetable garden in low sun
PHOTOGRAPH BY KLAUS VEDFELT/GETTY

Gardener’s August To-Do List

What to do in the dirt, wherever you live.

August 3, 2015

Here's your August gardening guide for North America's USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 3-10. If you don’t know what zone you live in, check the map here to find out. We've left off zones 1–2 (far-north Alaska) and zones 11–13 (small section of the Florida Keys, the Pacific coast between L.A. and Mexico, and Hawaii) since zones 3–10 cover 99 percent or more of the gardeners in the U.S.

Zone 3

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  • Harvest time! If you're saving seeds, save only healthy ones, and make sure they have thoroughly dried. Clearly label seed storage containers.
  • Pick zucchini when fruit are 4 to 8 inches long—you'll get twice as many.
  • Spray water on the top and undersides of zucchini foliage, early in the mornings, to control spider mites and aphids.
  • After midmonth, pinch off any new tomato flowers to direct energy to ripening fruit.
  • Slowly reduce watering of perennials, trees, and shrubs to allow them to harden-off for the winter.
  • Be prepared to protect plants from early frost.
  • At month's end, take cuttings of geraniums, fuchsias, and begonias. Root them in damp perlite.

Related: Beginner’s Guide To Seed Saving

Zone 4

  • Fall will soon be here: Plant lettuce and other fast-growing crops to replace those harvested.
  • Order spring-blooming flower bulbs and garlic to plant next month.
  • Thin strawberry runners.
  • Save seed from favorite open-pollinated tomatoes and peppers to develop the best regional variations of those varieties.
  • At month's end, sow spinach in a coldframe for spring harvest.
  • Clean up spent early crops and replace with cover crops, such as clover, oats, or barley.

Related: Coldframes

Zone 5

  • Indoors, start seeds of quick-maturing lettuce and brassicas for fall harvest.
  • Cut back berry canes that have finished fruiting.
  • Weed strawberries, then mulch them with compost.
  • Transplant extra strawberry plants to a new bed.
  • If you garden in a semiarid climate, give plants a deep soaking of 1 to ½ inches of water weekly.
  • Re-seed carrots, beets, turnips, and radishes.
  • Remove rose leaves infected with black spot.
  • Take photos and make notes for next year's landscape.
  • Gather globe amaranth, celosia, and golden-rod for air drying.

Related: The Surprising Health Benefits Of Purple Carrots

Zone 6

  • Water the garden weekly if it isn't getting enough rain.
  • For fall salads, plant leafy greens like lettuce and spinach.
  • Start pansy seeds in flats to transplant in fall for early spring bloom.
  • Sow seeds of poppies, bachelor's buttons (Centaurea cyanus), and sweet William (Dianthus barbatus) where you want their blooms next spring.
  • Gather and dry herbs and flowers at their peak.
  • Send off your order for spring bulbs and garlic for fall planting—ASAP.

Related: 4 Easy Ways To Preserve Herbs

Zone 7

  • If the weather's dry, water your vegetable garden gently but deeply every 5 to 7 days.
  • Before midmonth, sow cool-weather crops like Chinese cabbage, beets, Swiss chard, and mustard.
  • Cover seedbeds with shadecloth and mist the soil often to induce sprouting.
  • Late this month, set out transplants of broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and collards.
  • Stop watering potted amaryllis bulbs; store them in a dark, dry spot for several weeks, then bring them out again to initiate winter bloom.

Related: Amaryllis

Zone 8

  • Prune berries.
  • Gather and dry herbs.
  • In empty beds, plant a cover crop of red clover to build soil and reduce erosion.
  • Start seeds of broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower to transplant later.
  • Work compost into the garden now so it can mellow before planting.
  • Continue to set out tomato and pepper transplants.
  • Direct-seed limas, corn, cucumbers, squash, dill, and basil.

Related: 7 Solutions To Common Compost Problems

Zone 9

  • Prune back tomatoes and peppers to stimulate new growth and continued production.
  • Shade lettuce, chard, tomatoes, peppers, melons, and eggplants from intense sun.
  • For prize-winning winter squash and pumpkins, pinch off any female flowers and young fruit that develop from now on.
  • Fertilize heavy feeders—such as corn, cukes, lettuce, squash, and onions—using a dilute solution of fish fertilizer, once a week.
  • Harvest annual statice, strawflowers, and ageratum, and then dry them in a cool, airy place.
  • Plant annual candytuft (Iberis umbellata) and marigolds for fall color.
  • Plant calendulas, stocks (Matthiola incana), bachelor's buttons (Centaurea cyanus), and forget-me-nots (Myosotis sylvatica) for early spring color.

Related: Organic Fertilizers

Zone 10

  • Repot indoor plants in fresh soil.
  • Plan the fall and winter food garden and assemble seed orders.
  • Start tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and watermelons in pots—make sure they get enough afternoon shade.
  • Protect the compost pile from full sun—coconut palm fronds or shade cloths will do the job, but leave air space between them and the top of the pile.
  • Keep veggies growing strong with a top-dressing of compost.
  • Continue to solarize empty beds to kill weed seeds and disease pathogens: Water the soil thoroughly, then seal it with clear plastic for 6 to 8 weeks.