I have always felt that August is Michigan’s true final summer month. For me, it has always marked the winding down of another year, and I feel that extends to my garden, too.
August is a Last Call for many summer favorites. With a mild fall, you’re likely to get another crop of cucumbers, summer squash, beans, and other quick-growing summer staples before the snow flies, but you had better get seeds in the ground quickly. Now’s the time to focus on plants that tolerate cool weather (i.e. beets, carrots, broccoli, kale), or that have relatively short days to maturity (i.e. radishes, lettuce, spinach, turnips). Savor what’s ripe on the vine (tomatoes, peppers, blackberries, stone fruit), and put some in jars or in the freezer for those brutal, gray January days.
By now you should have pulled garlic out of the ground. I pull mine in the morning and leave heads to dry in the garden soil until mid-afternoon. I then braid the long leaves of plants in groups of 8-10, hang them to cure in the barn for a few weeks, and then transfer them to my basement or kitchen until I want to use them. I also set aside heads (cloves) for planting in October. If you plan to keep crops like squash, potatoes, onions and other root veggies in cold storage, now’s the time to research how best to do so.
Because no garden is complete without fresh blooms for vases, this is a great time of year to think about where you’d like spring color to appear. Sprinkle poppy, bachelor button, and dianthus seeds in flowerbeds, in the garden, or along fence lines. Purchase spring bulbs for planting in late September or early October. Make a plan to dig up or divide clumps of perennials that have overgrown their current space and offer your extras to friends and family.
Keep turning over your compost, and add your spent garden plants to the pile. Make yourself a fall to-do list and plan to tackle it before Halloween (because, as Michiganders, we know Old Man Winter loves to emerge just in time for trick-or-treating).
Summer’s not over yet, so enjoy the sweet success of this year’s harvest, and plan to plant a few fall favorites.