Do you long for those cute black and orange violas to make the perfect centerpiece for your children's Halloween party? Or a few heirloom lettuce plants? Specialty plants like these can be difficult to find as transplants in large retail centers and nurseries. The answer is to buy seeds and grow the plants yourself. The problem, of course, is the seeds need to be sown in August. While August's heat, humidity, and lack of rainfall seem like a strange time to consider the fall garden, it's the month to begin seeds for fall color and winter vegetables.
The easiest way to get some late color in the flower garden is with fast growing annuals. Marigold and zinnia seeds sown in August provide a blast of color for the October and November landscape. As a bonus, these flowers give migrating butterflies a rest stop as they make their way further south for the winter. Sow marigolds and zinnias directly into empty spots in the flower border. Keep them watered and fed (you can do both at once with Miracle-Gro® Liquafeed® Advance&trade All Purpose Feeding System), and they'll reward you with fresh color as the temperatures cool and the season changes.
Even though August doesn't offer the perfect conditions for sowing cool-season seeds, there are a few tricks to help give these plants get a jump-start during the hottest part of the year. Cool-season annuals to start toward the middle of August include calendula, snapdragon, stock, pansy, and English daisy. Seeds of biennials like foxglove, hollyhock, and money plant, when they're started in August and transplanted to the garden in late October and November, will be flowering in time for Mother's Day.
August is also a great time to start plants of hardy perennials like purple coneflower and brown-eyed Susan. Flowers like these are the backbone of your garden in summer. And if you love bright summer blooms, the more the merrier.
In the vegetable garden, you can sow seeds in August to produce cabbage, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, collards, spinach and lettuce to transplant into the garden in fall.
Cool-loving seeds can be coaxed into growth in the shady areas of your garden. Plant seeds in shallow containers filled with a soil mix specifically formulated for seed germination. Locate the containers on the north side of the house or garden. Keep them well-watered and fed, and provide plenty of air circulation. Transplant seedlings into 3- or 4-inch containers when their first true leaves appear. They will be ready for the transition into the garden the moment the night temperatures cool off.