August Planting

August is generally thought of as harvest season. Many gardeners are busy canning tomatoes, curing winter squash, and trying to figure out exactly how to use all that zucchini. No matter where you live you can also plant in Agust. Exactly what you can plant when varies depending on your climate.

Below you’ll find a few great varieties for August planting. To find out more specific about your climate and when you should plant check out The Farmer’s Almanac First and Last Frost Date Calculator, our post Everything You Need to Know About Plant Hardiness Zones, or this handy Frost Zone Map from The Spruce.

Tatsoi Mustard

Cool Climates

In cool climates, August planting can be a challenge. Your area may still be experiencing hot temperatures but won’t be for very long. You’ll need to select varieties with short seasons and some cold tolerance. If it’s still hot in your area these cool-season crops may need extra care to germinate and get started. Be sure to keep them moist and use shade cloth and/or mulch to keep the soil cool if needed. Those in cool climates may also want to consider some form of season extension which is discussed later in this post. Here are just a few good varieties to plant this August.

American Purple Top Yellow Rutabaga

Warm Climates

Those who live in warmer climates (especially zone 8 and farther south) will be able to plant more heat-loving vegetables in August than you could further north. However, some fall crops like spinach and radishes that are great for cool climates will have trouble germinating in the heat and may need to be planted later. Here are just a few good varieties to plant this August.

Other Plants

There are many other varieties that can be planted in August. Root crops like carrots, beets, turnips and rutabagas are all great choices. You can also look at cold hardy brassicas and greens.

You can also plant or begin planning to add perennials to your garden. Perennials like fruit trees and rhubarb transplants are an excellent way to add to your garden this fall. They should be planted several weeks before the ground freezes so they can get established. Be sure too keep them watered even though it’s cool.

Season Extension

August is also a good time to think about season extension. You’ll be able to grow crops farther into the winter if you can provide them some protection. Depending on your budget you may consider setting up cold frames, low tunnels, or even a hoop house. Cold frames and low tunnels tend to be the quickest and most budget-friendly options. Cold frames can be made from simple materials and like straw bales and old windows and may help you grow cold-hardy greens right through the winter.

Easy Season Extension For Fall

A gardener’s work is never done! Keep planting this August with a few of these awesome varieties.

 

Canning Garlic Dill Pickles

Arkansas Little Leaf Pickling Cucumber

Enjoying something you grew at home months after the garden season is over is a satisfying part of being a gardener. If you’re new to food preservation canning pickles is a great place to start. They’re easy to make and are highly acidic meaning that they’re safe to process in a water bath canner rather than a pressure canner. 

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 12 quart-sized canning jars with lids and bands
  • water bath canner
  • about 20lbs of pickling cucumbers
  • 12 cups of water
  • 12 tbs of canning salt
  • 6 cups of vinegar (5% acidity)
  • fresh dill or dill seeds
  • fresh garlic
  • optional: other spices and pickle crisper

Preparation

To begin you’ll need to sanitize your jars and rings. Boil them in your water bath canner for 10 minutes. I’ve found it helpful to tie a cotton string through all the rings so they’re easy to retrieve from the water.

While that’s happening wash and slice your cucumbers. I usually do spears for dill pickles but you can cut them any way you’d like. Bring the water, vinegar, and salt to a boil, stirring it until all the salt is dissolved.

Packing Jars

Pack each jar with 2 fresh dill sprigs or 2 teaspoons of dill seed and 4 cloves of garlic (I like to mince mine but you don’t have to), and cucumber slices, leaving about 1/2 inch of headspace. You can also add other spices like mustard seeds, red pepper flakes or even a fresh hot pepper to each jar depending on your taste. If desired you can also use a product like Ball Pickle Crisper to help ensure your pickles stay crunchy. It can be added to jars at 1/4 tsp per quart.

Pour the hot brine into the jars, covering the cucumbers, and leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Wipe the jar rims with a clean cloth and place new lids on, securing them with sanitized rings twisted finger tight.

Canning

Place your filled jars into your water bath canner (you may have to do several batches), making sure they’re covered with water. Bring them to a boil and process them for 15 minutes (adjust for altitude). Turn off the heat, remove the lid and let them stand for 5 minutes. Remove the jars and check their seal after 24 hours. The lids shouldn’t flex up and down in the center when pressed. 

Any unsealed jars should be refrigerated and used up first. The rest can be stored out of direct sunlight for use throughout the coming year. 

Enjoy your pickles!

 

Fall Harvest: Plants that are Sweeter After a Frost

Fall gardens are generally touted as being a great way to get another harvest out of a small garden. They’re great for a few other reasons too. Fall is a wonderful time to work in the garden as the heat and humidity lessens. There’s also generally less pest pressure in the fall, meaning you might still get to put up some sauerkraut even if cabbage moths attacked your spring cabbage crop. A lesser discussed benefit is that some fall crops actually become sweeter after a frost.

Why are plants sweeter after a frost?

Unlike animals, vegetables can’t move south for winter, find a cozy den, or grow and extra thick coat. To survive the cold, certain plants have evolved a way to cope with colder temperatures. First, the plants’ cell walls thicken. These thicker walls contain less moisture and freeze less easily. The other part of this process, is the one that we as gardeners relish, the plants convert more of their starches to sugar. This has several benefits. Using the sugar produces energy, in effect, keeping the plant warmer. The sugar also decreases the formation of ice in the cell and prevents the cell membrane from freezing. This process is good for the plant and tasty for the gardener!

What plants do this?

Brassicas (Cabbage Family)

  • Cabbage
  • Kale
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Kohlrabi
  • Collards

These plants thrive in cool temperatures making them ideal for fall planting. They can withstand temperatures down to 20°F and some like burssels sprouts can withstand much colder (down to 0°F). Row cover can be used to extend the season further and protect crops from damaging cold winds.

Carrots & Beets

Both beets and carrots benefit from a layer of mulch around their tops in cold weather. In southern climates, these roots can be left in the ground over winter and harvested as needed. To protect the tops for eating beet greens or to keep them growing you may need to use row cover or a cold frame to protect them during consistently cold temperatures.

Turnips & Rutabagas

Turnips and rutabagas are vastly sweetened by cold temperatures. Rutabagas should be harvested before temperatures drop to 20°F but turnips can handle colder temperatures particularly if they’ve been covered in a thick layer of mulch.

Leeks

In many areas, leeks can be overwintered and survive temperatures down to 10°F. If you’re harvesting leeks from frozen ground our friend Pam Dawling recommends pouring boiling water on the base of the plants if you’re harvesting a few for immediate use.

Swiss Chard

Swiss chard is fairly cold-hardy but it does best with some protection particularly if you live in an area with strong winds. To prolong your chard harvest use row cover or a cold frame. We’ve found Ruby Red Swiss Chard to be more frost tolerant than other varieties.

After a long summer it can be difficult to find the time and motivation to sow a fall garden. It really is worth it though! Plant a few of these crops for a sweet fall harvest.

Saving the Past for the Future