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Summer's last stand
The "dog days" of August make it hard to dream of cooler nights and the arrival of fall planting season, but both are just around the corner. For now, we must be satisfied with weeding and watering, which, after all, are both great reasons or excuses to spend time in the garden. The plus side of all of this weeding and watering is that your garden should be at its peak of lush growth, vibrant colors, and just all-around beauty.
In the vegetable garden
August signals harvest time for lots of warm-season crops, but it's also time for another season to begin. Consider planting a fall crop of broccoli, kale, cabbage, and cauliflower. In Kentucky, fall is the best time to grow cauliflower. Toward the end of August and throughout September is also time to begin sowing radish, lettuce, spinach, and arugula seeds. All the leafy greens germinate quickly and you can have a bounty of fresh greens in just a few weeks. Closely monitor the watering of all newly planted crops; the intense sun and heat of August can be tough on them.
Harvesting and curing onions and shallots for storage starts in August. To cure them, place the harvested bulbs on a dry, slatted wooden or wire surface in the shade and sheltered from rainfall. Good spots include an open garage, barn, carport, covered veranda, screened-in porch, deck, or patio. Most importantly, the site needs to have great air circulation and be protected from rain. In a few short weeks, the bulbs will cure or dry so that you can store and use them all winter long.
In the landscape
Since most of your August landscape chores consist of simply mowing, weeding, and watering, use this opportunity to let your mind wander and begin planning for fall bulb and pansy planting. Bulbs usually arrive at your local garden centers in late August or early September, so it's a good idea to shop early and be ready with your fall planting plan. Pansies can be planted as soon as they are available, but usually are not ready until the first of September. They bring a refreshing splash of new color to tired or declining summer container plantings and establish quickly when planted in the ground, providing color into the winter. Planting season for spring-flowering bulbs does not begin until October, but you can purchase bulbs as soon as they are available and store them in a cool, dark location until you're ready to plant in October.
Safety in the garden
Above all, be careful when working in the garden in the heat and humidity of August. If you can, work outside in the morning or evening when temperatures are slightly cooler, or work in shady areas during the heat of the day and in sunnier areas as the sun goes down in the evening. Stay hydrated by drinking water throughout the day, not just when you are working outdoors. Consider placing a wet cloth on the back of your neck while outside in the heat. This will keep the sun off your neck and keep you a little cooler while you work.