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Summer Gardening: August Garden Checklist Zones 4-5

If there is one thing you can count on in August across all zones it’s the heat that this late-summer month brings. Luckily a lot of the laborious garden chores were done in prior months. This month in the August garden, there’s a lot of monitoring, maintaining, planning, harvesting, and planting with hopes of a fall crop.

Whenever possible, beat the heat and humidity by performing maintenance tasks earlier in the day, and just as you water your garden, be sure to stay hydrated yourself. Cooler temperatures will be here before you know it, so make the most of these precious summer days.

Carve out some rest and relaxation time, but don’t forget to make some room for some essential tasks from our August Garden Checklist Zones 4-5, which will help keep your garden thriving and producing as we round out summer and transition to fall.

Butterfly on marigold

Planning For A Fall Garden

Regularly walk your landscape, assess your garden this month, and jot down pertinent information about disease, weather, rainfall & humidity, pests, successes, growing failures, and garden goals. You’ll be planting for a fall harvest this month, so keep thinking ahead as you nurture your already established gardens.

Here are some highlights of what you should be thinking about on the August Garden Checklist Zones 4-5.

  • As we already mentioned, work smarter and plan to do your garden chores early in the day or later in the afternoon. Drink plenty of water and rest in a cool spot if you ever feel overheated.
  • If you plan to travel during August, consider asking a friend or neighbor to help you water your garden. Reward them with your harvest while you are gone.
  • Monitor your gardens for pests and disease and jot those areas down in your garden journal so you can avoid planting the same plant varieties in those locations next year.
  • Think about collecting seeds for next year’s gardens! Purchase some seed collecting envelopes, labels, and seed storage containers so you can harvest seeds from your best-performing plants.
  • It’s time to start scouring the pages of seed catalogs for bulbs to plant in fall that will flower come spring. Place your orders early for the best selection.
  • If you are planning a fall vegetable garden, buy your seeds now and plan out your fall garden. You’ll be starting seeds for cool-season crops indoors this month, so make sure you also have your seed-starting supplies.
  • Don’t forget about the pollinators in your fall garden. There will be fewer flowering plants in the garden as the season changes.  Consider planting another round of marigolds, cosmos, calendula, sunflowers, zinnias, and other fall-blooming annuals to encourage beneficial pollinators to the garden.
  • Make a note of the temperature, pests, rainfall, and overall weather conditions this month.
  • Take some snapshots of your gardens and stick them in your garden journal so you can have a visual catalog of your garden’s progress. It is fun to look back on, will help you as you plan next year’s gardens, and will keep you motivated during the cold winter days.
  • Define spaces for your fall gardens this month. This may mean digging out a new area, amending, edging, or removing plants from the garden that are past their prime.
  • Continue to search for recipes and ways to use and prepare the fruits of your harvest. Ask friends and neighbors for tried and true favorites.
  • Was there something you jotted down in your journal that you had your heart set on for the garden, but the price point wasn’t ideal? Regularly check your garden center and nursery for an end-of-season clearance section. Sometimes there are straggly, heavily discounted perennials and shrubs, pots, or other garden supply deals that you can snag.
  • Monitor plants in your August garden for signs of stress and troubleshoot the problem. Is more water needed?  Fertilizer? Or could plants benefit from a shade cloth?

August Garden Maintenance in Zones 4-5

Gardens are in full bloom, and it’s hard to believe that we are already starting our planting for fall harvests.  Much of the garden maintenance tasks warrant repeating throughout the growing season.

Weeding, mulching, pruning, fertilizing, watering, and a few other tasks on the August Garden Checklist Zone 4-5 will do wonders to keep your garden thriving and productive in the heat of summer.

Summer Garden Weeding

Continue to weed your gardens regularly. The more often you evict those weeds, the less likely they will have the opportunity to go to seed and further propagate.

Summer & Fall Garden Mulching

Mulching your garden helps regulate soil temperature, cool plant roots, retain soil moisture, deter weeds, and protect the soil from erosion.  Keep some mulch close at hand in case a bare spot opens up in your garden.

Pruning Plants in August

  • Any new fruits on pumpkin plants, tomato plants, and other large vegetable plants that form toward the end of the month will likely only steal energy from the plant because they won’t have time to ripen fully. Cull these small fruits or female flowers so the plant can put its energy into growing and ripening already established fruits.
  • Pinch off the flowers of coleus plants to encourage a fuller plant with more beautiful foliage.
  • Deadhead flowering annuals and perennials, collecting seeds from the best plants.
  • Trim back herbs or pinch off flowering tips to prevent the plant from going to seed and to prolong your harvest.
  • Prune tomato suckers, peppers, and eggplant to encourage new growth.
  • Prune squash plants if their foliage is overlapping other plants.
  • Pruning of shrubs should stop at this point of the season unless it is to prune away dead or damaged limbs. Pruning traditionally pushes new growth, which can be susceptible to frosts later on.

Fertilizing Your Summer Garden

Vegetables are heavy feeders and have been working hard to produce this summer so they could benefit from a side dressing of compost or organic fertilizer.  If you are using your summer vegetable garden beds for a fall crop, it is paramount to bolster the soil with nutrients by amending your soil.

Avoid fertilizing shrubs and trees now, as the resulting push of new growth may not thrive well as frost dates loom in the not too distant future.

Summer Garden Watering Tips

Plant root systems are well developed by now, so long, deep watering sessions are paramount for your vegetable gardens, hanging baskets, perennial gardens, and fruit trees.

Give your plants a thorough drink and allow the soil to dry between waterings. Container plants and hanging baskets may require daily watering because the heat can dry them out quickly.

As always, if there is a water usage restriction in your area, please abide by those regulations.

Pears in a harvest basket

Other August Garden Checklist Zones 4-5 Must-Dos

  • It’s a great time to repair bare spots in lawns.
  • Continue to pinch spent blooms off of annual plants.
  • Remove dead or underperforming annuals. If they are not thriving now, it’s best to cut your losses. Place a high-performing container of blooms in empty spots.
  • Deadhead perennial flower heads.
  • Collect seeds from your most successful vegetables, herbs, and flowers.
  • Remove spent tomato plants and pumpkin vines to make room for fall gardens.

August Indoor Planting

In early August, start seeds indoors for cool-season crops that you plan to add to your fall garden. You may need to protect these plantings by providing a shade cloth to shield them from the intense sun come transplant time.

Outdoor Planting in Zones 4-5

Have a cold frame set up and ready, and plant the following vegetables:

  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Radishes
  • Spinach
  • Lettuces

By the middle of the month, transplant indoor seedlings of:

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Kale
  • Collards
  • Swiss Chard
  • Cabbage

Provide them with some sun protection if temperatures really start to soar so that they do not bolt.

Summer Garden Harvest

Continue to harvest your vegetables, checking them daily for developed fruits. Regular harvesting encourages more fruiting and helps to avoid woody or bitter produce. A simple zucchini can double in size overnight, so keep that in mind!

In addition to the ongoing vegetables available for harvest, peaches, pears, and plums are ready for picking, and you may still find some raspberries and blackberries clinging to the branches.

It’s time to pull out the garden journal and access those recipes you have been compiling to best utilize your crops. Try out canning to preserve your produce, make jellies and jams, or a loaf of prized zucchini bread or a casserole. It’s also a lovely gesture to share some of your treasured harvest with family, friends, neighbors, or your local food pantry.


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Hand placing pears in a harvest basket
Tiger swallowtail butterfly on a calendula flower

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