University of Vermont
Department of Plant and Soil Science
Summer News Article
KEEPING COMPOST MOIST AND OTHER AUGUST
Leonard Perry, UVM Horticulturist
and Charlie Nardozzi, Garden Consultant
Keeping a compost pile moist during drought, hastening tomato ripening, and
ordering spring bulbs for fall planting are some of the gardening activities
for this month.
With much of our region abnormally dry this summer, or with only light rain
showers, compost piles may be quite dry. To remain active, they need
to be moist. Take a hose to the compost pile and moisten the materials
to keep them decomposing. Use a compost fork to mix the ingredients, moving
the stuff around the outside of the pile into the middle where most of the
decomposition takes place.
Don't rely on nature to provide enough water for trees and shrubs that
you've planted this spring or summer. Deep watering once a week will
encourage deep roots, which better withstand droughts and better anchor
To hasten ripening of already set tomatoes, remove new blossoms as they
form. Chances are the new blossoms won't have time to mature before frost,
and they will take energy away from the developing fruit. Don't prune the
branches because they are shading and protecting fruits from the hot summer
Late summer is a good time to order spring flowering bulbs, such as tulips
and daffodils, from catalogs or online, if you haven’t already.
The selection is often greater than at local stores, although garden stores
usually have plenty in September if you can wait and aren’t too
particular. Even though catalog orders will be received now, they will
be shipped at the appropriate time for planting in fall. Just keep a copy of
your order so you know what's coming.
Keep up with harvest of all your produce, giving excess to friends or your
local food shelf. In particular, keep squash and zucchini picked while
young, or they’ll get too large to use. If your pickling cucumbers do
get too large, consider making watermelon-type pickles with them instead of
the traditional dill pickles.
If you have some bare spots in the garden after peas are finished, beans are
harvested or garlic is dug, sow some beets, spinach, and fall lettuce. You
can even start snow peas and beans for a modest fall crop. Soak the pea
seeds overnight to hasten germination.
As you remove spent plants from your garden beds, if you’re not planting a
fall crop, sow a cover crop such as winter rye. This will help reduce weed
infestation, minimize erosion and compaction from fall rains, and will add
nutrients and organic matter to the soil when it is tilled under next
‘Honorine Jobert’ is a Japanese anemone with white flowers, and has been
named the Perennial Plant of the Year for 2016 by the Perennial Plant
Association. Hardy to USDA zone 4 (-20 to -30 degrees F minimum in
winter), it has poppy-like single white flowers. These are two to
three inches wide, on wiry branched stems above the leaves in late
summer. In the north, this perennial prefers sun but will tolerate
part shade. It is an heirloom hybrid of several species, dating back
to 1858 in Verdun, France.
Other gardening activities for this month include keeping hummingbird
feeders filled and cleaned regularly, visiting farmers’ markets, freezing
vegetables for winter, making tomato sauce and pesto and fruit pies to
freeze, and visiting—even entering crops you grew—in local fairs.
Nardozzi is a nationally known horticulturist, author, gardening
consultant, and garden coach; gardeningwithcharlie.com).
Return to Perry's Perennial