Not everyone who hears how much I enjoy pulling weeds is surprised. In fact, what is most surprising is the number of people who agree.
''It is therapeutic,'' someone said to me recently. ''I get out my little stool and a glass of my favorite beverage and push away everything else that is going on in the world.''
It is August and this is when the weeds always seem to get ahead of us. At least for me they do, and it could be because I am working on other projects. After all, with the vegetable garden planted two months ago and having already spent many hours trying to keep the weeds at least smaller than the plants themselves, at this point we're looking toward the harvest and not so much at the maintenance. In the perennial beds, we are deadheading and pulling up an occasional stray purslane crown or ground ivy that wanders into a pathway, but the hoe and weasel are long buried behind harvest baskets and canning jars.
But this year I was determined not to let August weeds work their way into the gardens. For at least a few minutes each day, I took a stroll through the gardens pulling up what I could, especially after a rainstorm. But this year I've noticed new and different weeds in the garden. I don't know how they got there and haven't taken the time to identify them - something I will eventually do because it bothers me not knowing - but here it is August and even with all my efforts, it's happening again. And not only that, the weeds seem particularly persistent this year. While we worry that sudden rain bursts aren't enough to deeply water the plants so that roots are encouraged to go deep as well, the roots on some of these weeds seem to go on forever.
I blame the plants. The tomato vines are tall, nearly over our heads. The pumpkin vines are spreading over everything like Kudzu covers anything standing still in the south, and the beans, which we planted later than usual, are producing like mad, keeping us busy with a harvest that never seems to end. I have yet to see that first ripe slicing tomato - we planted those late this season too - although friends are bringing us samples from their gardens and that satisfies our need for fresh tomato sandwiches. That's not to say the plants aren't producing, they are, in fact, filled with plenty of green fruit. My husband says we'll have tomatoes when everyone else's plants are depleted. I hope he's right.
It's true that pulling weeds seems to be a never-ending chore in the garden in August. So when I need a little respite from daily life, I too, like my friend, will pull out the little stool, take up an iced beverage, and sit myself in the garden for a little while doing nothing but pulling weeds.
When the weeds get a little too hard to take, there are other August garden chores that need attention. August is the perfect time to sow more seeds and keep that garden going for a little while longer. I like to toss in a couple rows of peas for a cool, fall harvest. I also am still sowing lettuce and spinach and will continue to sow spinach because as some might not know, it winter-overs wonderfully and can even beat asparagus as the first vegetable ready to harvest in spring.
Some things are best when very young, so although I'm pinching flowers off the basil to keep it from bolting, this is the time to plant a couple fresh rows. Basil hates the cold, but it's such a fast grower there will be plenty tender young leaves from new plants before it gets to that point.
Later in the month we can start dividing those summer perennials. Daylilies can be taken up now and split into three fans per section for replanting. Do it now, and you'll have blooms next year. Wait until spring and you'll have to wait an entire year to see flowers.
Keep watering and feeding those vegetable and flower plants that are still producing, but hold off feeding the shrubs and trees. They are getting ready to slow down for winter and don't need the pressure of trying to encourage new growth this time of year. Continue to water new transplants to encourage deep root growth before winter.
August also is when we can start taking a good look at the perennial beds, deciding what didn't work and how we can make it better. What can we use to fill that empty spot and what can we plant next to those purple phlox to really make them pop? Take photos of the garden now so next year you can see what you were thinking about this year. Jot down your ideas in a garden journal. Next spring you'll be glad you did.