August is a gardening month when there is either nothing to do but enjoy the garden or an endless list of tasks to accomplish before the leaves fall.
An early morning walk around the garden and yard with a pad and pencil can be very productive. Make of note of which trees and shrubs need to be thinned or pruned up, which perennials would benefit from being divided, where the bare spots are, which plants need to be removed, etc.
Also on that walk, note the bare spots in the turf and mulch, inspect plants for signs of insect damage, irrigation leaks, fence or deck work to be done, etc.
Look for plants such as Hostas that have centers dying and plants that have outgrown the amount of space thought they would need. Consider where pieces of those divided perennials might look good next year.
Take a pair of clippers on your walk and remove any dead or diseased twigs. Make a note of limbs or branches that should come out because they are crossing another branch.
This is a good time of year to take a soil sample to the Extension Office for testing so you know what nutrients and amendments to add this fall.
If you have wanted to add a new bed or extend an existing one, mark it off with a stream of flour so you can see what the area would look like completed. Then, cover the area with several layers of newsprint and some mulch or rocks to hold the paper in place. The same method can be used to help visualize a new path or patio.
Since fall is the best time to put in new shrubs and trees, those planting areas can be identified and marked using the same method. After the area is marked, try a sample dig around the newsprint to see how easily the ground can be worked. A month or two of moistened newspaper and mulch will make the job much easier as earthworms work their magic under that moist cover.
There are plenty of seeds on the annual flowers and herbs that can be harvested and saved for next spring, including Zinnias, Agastache, sunflowers, nicotiana, basil, parsley, coreopsis, etc.
As lily season comes to an end, the bulbs can be dug, divided and replanted. Your favorite lily bulbs can be divided into pieces that resemble garlic cloves. Plant each clove into a container of potting soil and keep it moist over the winter. In the summer there will be a small lily bulb ready to go into the ground in one of those bare spots.
Consider which plants you want more of. Many perennials can be easily propagated from fall cuttings and by layering.
Plants that have been blooming this month would benefit from all the faded flowers and less-than-perfect stems being removed. For example, if you hold a Catnip stem in hand and it has only leaves on the end, prune it back to the earliest green leaves, removing the entire bare stem.
Hanging baskets should be fertilized half-strength after pruning. While you are fertilizing, roses enjoy an August snack, too. Instead of chemicals, fish and kelp fertilizers as well as alfalfa meal are often recommended. Scratch them into the top 2-inches of the soil.
Trees are no longer actively growing and can be shaped; the lower limbs can be removed. Prune off all of the suckers and water sprouts that have shot up. Water sprouts look like branches but grow straight up from roots and branches.
Take photos of each bed, bare spot, or proposed planting site so you’ll have it on hand when doing your late-winter planning for spring.