August 1 to August 30-- Discover what you should be doing right now. Our experts share gardening advice, techniques, news, and ideas to make your garden the best ever.

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August might seem like a terrible month for gardening, but don’t let the heat and humidity discourage you. This month presents a narrow window of opportunity for gardeners in zone 9 and 10 to plant warm-season vegetables again – especially pumpkins, melons and winter squashes that require a long growing season. If you want fall color in your subtropical garden, now is also the time to plant warm-hued flowers such as blanketflower, marigolds, gazania and sunflower, as well as colorful foliage plants like millet and coleus. Read on to learn all about the cool things that you can plant in the hot month of August.

 

map for zone 9-10

Your Regional reporter

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Steve Asbell is an illustrator, the author of Plant by Numbers and blogger of The Rainforest Garden.

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1. Plant Flowers for Fall

1. Replace those fizzling flowers with something new and exciting! Plant warm-season annuals like zinnias, marigolds, impatiens and sunflowers to bring a bit of relief to the remaining days of summer, or plan ahead with fabulous fall bloomers and foliage plants. Order chrysanthemum plants now so that they’ll burst into bloom by autumn. Purchase at least two; a couple of potted mums will frame an entryway with formal flare, while masses of three or more will fill in to create mounds of color in your beds. Since our growing zone is lacking in the fall foliage department, improvise by planting seeds of the rusty orange leaved Coleus ‘Pineapple Surprise’. Keep pruning the tips and blooms until fall, and you’ll be rewarded with a bushy display of fiery foliage.

2. Tackle Tough Weeds

2. Why is it that the toughest weeds turn up in the hottest, muggiest time of the year? If it seems as if you’re spending way too much time weeding this summer, maybe it’s time to use a different weeding tool. Some weeds actually benefit from inappropriate weeding practices, especially if your method breaks of stems, roots and seeds that resprout a week later. For fragile, brittle weeds such as dollarweed or dayflower, use a fork to gently lift the stems and rhizomes without any breakage. Use a serrated weeder to cut through the tough crowns of clumping grasses and rhizome forming weeds. For day-to-day weeding, use a Dutch hand hoe to quickly slice through weeds beneath the base with minimal effort.

3. Learn to Grow the Biggest Melons

3. The month of August presents second opportunity for planting melons in our climate, so take advantage of any unused space for a bounty of sweet fruit in Fall. Plant melons in mounds so that they receive excellent drainage, and space them according to the instructions on your seed packet. They take up a lot of space, so plant them where they have 15-20 feet to ramble. The only problem with planting in August is that it’s also the middle of the rainy season, when powdery mildew and downy mildew take can wreak havoc on your plants. To minimize moisture on the leaves, keep your soil covered with mulch (even cardboard will do) and avoid planting seeds where the vines will come into contact with wet soil. Read the following articles for tips on fertilizing and harvesting for big, sweet melons.

4. Plant Squashes Now

4. Squash and pumpkins can also be planted in August, but like melons, they also must be planted within this month or you’ve missed the boat until next spring. Take advantage of this short window of time and plant your favorite varieties of summer squash, winter squash and pumpkins now. Summer squashes to grow include zucchini and yellow crooknecks, but don’t limit yourself to the usual grocery store varieties. ‘Cocozelle’ is an Italian heirloom zucchini with gorgeous stripes, and ‘Ronde de Nice’ is a French heirloom with squat, sage green fruits and nutty, tender flesh. Both ‘Delicata’ and ‘Thelma Sanders’ are heirlooms with a flavor reminiscent of sweet potato For the ultimate in heirloom squashes, however, you must grow the Italian heirloom ‘Marina di Chioggia’ for its bumpy gray fruits and irresistibly rich flavor.

 

5. Grow These Corn Hybrids

5. Corn is yet another warm season vegetable that you should plant now. Growers in zone 9 can plant in August and September, and again from February to March, while growers in zone 10 have from August to March to plant their favorite corn varieties. If growing corn seems about as confusing as navigating a corn maze (or ‘maize’, get it?) blindfolded, then rest assured that all the growing info you need can be accessed from the very same page that you place your order. Grow the ‘Ambrosia’ hybrid for the sweetest corn you’ve ever tasted, or try the new ‘On Deck’ hybrid if you’re planting in containers, raised beds or tight spaces. For a departure from the ordinary, grow the ‘Ruby Queen’ sweet corn hybrid for its colorful and delectable kernels.