Maine Home Garden News — August 2011

August is the month to . . .

By Diana Hibbard, Home Horticulture Coordinator, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Cumberland County,

  • Harvest and preserve. It’s time to harvest vegetables for best yield and highest quality; attend a Preserving the Harvest workshop to learn how to preserve your fresh produce for year-round enjoyment. Call your local UMaine Extension county office for dates and times or check the schedule online.
  • Direct seed. Plant spinach and lettuce in the garden for fall harvest.
  • Harvest your garlic. Wait for the bottom 2 or 3 leaves to turn yellow. See Growing Garlic from University of Vermont Extension, or watch our video How Do I Grow Garlic in Maine?
  • Start planning. Plan for next year’s flower displays; assess plant combinations in containers, take photos, and make notes of what worked and what didn’t.
  • Make room. Bring houseplants inside towards the end of the month. Be sure to check for any insects that might be hitchhiking.
  • Divide and transplant. Fall is the best time to transplant peonies, bearded irises, and oriental poppies.
  • Plant trees and shrubs. Keep trees and shrubs watered until a hard frost.
  • Prune. Raspberry canes that have fruited should be pruned out. Also thin first-year canes for next year’s crop. For more information, see Bulletin #2066, Growing Raspberries and Blackberries, or watch our video How Do I Prune Raspberries?
  • Cover crop. Plant cover crops in open spots of your vegetable garden to protect the soil from erosion, increase organic matter, improve weed control, and provide nutrients. For more information about cover crops, see Cover Crops for Season’s End from the July issue of Maine Home Garden News.
  • Order bulbs. Daffodils are reliable and long-lived. Don’t forget to order your garlic bulbs as well and plant in the fall.
  • Seed lawns. Mid August through September is the ideal time to over-seed your lawn. Try a “low-mow” grass to decrease your mowing. For more information, see Bulletin #2166, Steps to a Low-Input, Healthy Garden or watch our video How to Establish a Home Lawn in Maine.
  • Donate. Give away extra fruit and veggies to food pantries; contact the local UMaine Extension office to sign up for Maine Harvest for Hunger. For information about donating produce, see Bulletin #4303, A Donor’s Guide to Vegetable Harvest.
  • Check your tomatoes. Blossom-end rot on tomatoes is caused by moisture fluctuations. Regulation of soil moisture and mulch will help.
  • Tomato horn worms are here. Check your tomato plants for chewed leaves and chewed fruit. Hand pick and destroy before too much damage occurs.

Don’t Try This at Home — Six Common Ways that People Unknowingly Damage or Kill Trees

By Richard Brzozowski, Extension Educator, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Cumberland County,

Don’t drive or park on the lawn near a tree(s). Tree roots like all other plant parts need air. When cars, trucks or other vehicles compact the soil beneath the base of a tree, soil pore space is reduced. The natural pore space of soil allows for water and air to be a part of the soil. Use alternate places to park your vehicles. Minimize vehicular traffic on lawns.

Don’t use excessive mulch. Mulch is often touted as the answer to all the gardener’s problems. It will control weeds, keep the soil temperature warm or cool, hold moisture, etc. However, mulch should be used wisely and in moderation. Never cover the natural flare of the tree trunk with mulch piled high against the trunk. Mulch will hold moisture against the tree trunk and be a harbor for boring insect pests. Feather the mulch in a light layer near the tree base.

Don’t weed whack at the tree base or scrape the tree trunk with your lawnmower. Many folks like a neat lawn with sharp edges and no unsightly weeds near tree bases. But often times little is considered when tackling those weeds. When using a line-trimmer or lawn mower, don’t allow the machine or its parts to damage the tree’s bark. The lifeline of the tree is cut when the layer just beneath the bark is damaged or cut. Take the time to weed with a hand clipper near the base of trees.

Don’t add an excessive amount of top-soil or fill around the base of trees. More than 90% of the roots of trees exist in the top foot of soil. These roots need air and water to live, grow, and thrive. By adding more fill or soil, the ability of the tree to use air and water near the surface is restricted. Tree trunks have a natural flare at ground level. Make sure that this flare is evident on the trees in your yard.

Don’t keep tree trunks wrapped. The wrap on tree trunk is used to protect trees at the nursery or in transit. These wraps should be removed to allow the trunk to be exposed to air and light. Insects and disease organisms thrive in a place that is warm, moist, and protected from natural enemies. The wrap provides this “safe harbor.” Remove it immediately after planting a tree. Mouse guards such as hardware cloth or plastic spiral wraps can be used from late fall until early spring to protect tree trunks by preventing mouse damage under the snow line. A hardware cloth formed in a wide cylinder can be kept on the tree year round if enough space is provided between the tree and the guard. Don’t allow the hardware cloth to touch the tree and constrict the tree’s growth. Change or widen the hardware cloth cylinder as the tree ages.

Don’t keep guide wires on newly planted trees. People usually forget to remove the guide wires from a newly planted tree. Over time the wire and the tree grow together and cause severe damage or death to the plant. If planted properly, guide wires are not usually needed to help a tree stand upright.

Trees are important to our landscape and our environment. Learn all you can about properly caring for the trees in your yard, neighborhood, and community.

Evaluating Your Garden — Mid Season

By Richard Brzozowski, Extension Educator, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Cumberland County,

August is the perfect time to evaluate the productivity of your home vegetable garden. The information you collect can be used to make needed adjustments to not only improve this season’s crops but next season’s as well. Below is a set of questions that can help you assess your garden.

  • Are you satisfied with the quantity and quality of the vegetables you have harvested already this season? List all that you have harvested to date. Did the date(s) of planting have an impact on these results? Did the weather have an impact on these results?
  • Do you think you have sown or planted the types and kinds of vegetables suitable for your situation? Have you chosen disease resistant varieties when possible?
  • Is adequate spacing of plants an issue for them to perform successfully?
  • Has water (too much or too little) affected your plantings?
  • Have plants been stressed by lack of water (stunted plants, wilting leaves, shrunken fruit, etc.)?
  • If water has been in short supply, did you use mulches effectively to conserve soil moisture? Mulches can help maintain soil moisture levels, keep fruit clean and keep weeds in check.
  • Do you have an adequate supply of water for your garden? Water is essential for a successful garden. Consider collecting rain water if lack of water is an issue.
  • Do you think there is adequate organic mater in the soil to hold water and nutrients? A soil test can determine several important aspects of your garden soil including the organic matter percentage. Organic matter is used up as time passes and plantings are harvested. It needs to be replenished annually. Fall is a good time to integrate organic matter into the soil.

  • Are the leaves of plants the appropriate shade of green? Light green leaves usually mean lack of nitrogen. Applications of fertilizer (organic or synthetic) in mid-season can turn a crop around.
  • Are there adequate blossoms and has fruit set? Is the fruit sizing up nicely?
  • Have greens performed to your liking? Has there been good growth and regrowth of these greens? Did you sow your greens early in the season doing a succession planting?
  • Have you checked the status of crops underground? Tuber numbers, tuber size, root size, etc.
  • What is the weed situation? Weeds rob vegetable plantings of nutrients, moisture, and sun light.
  • Have insect pests had an affect on certain crops? When did they show up? Did you identify the insects that were causing the problem? What steps have you taken to control or manage these pests or prevent damage? Have these steps been effective?
  • Has wildlife (birds, deer, woodchucks, mice, raccoon, etc.) consumed or destroyed any of your plantings? What steps have you taken to reduce this damage?

Too many questions? Not enough answers? Contact your local UMaine Extension office or check out our website at

University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s Maine Home Garden News is designed to equip home gardeners with practical, timely information.

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Maine Home Garden News was created in response to a continued increase in requests for information on gardening and includes timely and seasonal tips, as well as research-based articles on all aspects of gardening. Articles are written by UMaine Extension specialists, educators, and horticulture professionals, as well as Master Gardener Volunteers from around Maine, with Professor Richard Brzozowski serving as editor.

Information in this publication is provided purely for educational purposes. No responsibility is assumed for any problems associated with the use of products or services mentioned. No endorsement of products or companies is intended, nor is criticism of unnamed products or companies implied.

© 2011
Published and distributed in furtherance of Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914, by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, the Land Grant University of the state of Maine and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Cooperative Extension and other agencies of the U.S.D.A. provide equal opportunities in programs and employment.

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