VIU Milner Gardens and Woodland

August Garden Tasks

by Vancouver Island Master Gardeners Association

This is the month the squash get plump and we feast on tomatoes and peppers while the hummingbirds and bees feast on echinacea and crocosmia nectar. Many music festivals, art shows and early country fairs remain on hold so the small spaces in our home gardens – the shade under a tree and the quiet corner on porch or patio – become even more important getaways in our busy lives.  

First, a Mid-Summer Review

Grab your notebook and walk through all your growing spaces. As the climate changes high heat and severe drought will be commonplace summer events. What shrubs and trees are scorched on top for the first time? Some may show brown leaves or needles along stems and trunks, betraying a slow death from severe drought – perhaps in spite of your attempts to keep them hydrated. Who can you move? What landscape or hardscape changes can you make to protect vulnerable plants who can’t be moved? Permanent or moveable pergolas and shade sails can follow the sun pattern through your yards while making new and changing “outdoor rooms” for you to enjoy your green treasures during all seasons.

Maintenance and Planting

Many shrubs and trees have dropped extra leaves during this summer’s heat dome. Gather them now. Crush them into a large garbage bag, poke a few holes in the sides, wet the leaves then leave the bag next to your compost. By October you will have gorgeous leaf mold for your winter mulches.

Seed autumn mescluns. Divide and transplant iris and peonies.

Who’s Thirsty?

Here is a modified rule-of-thumb vegetable watering guide from The Farmer's Almanac article written by Catherine Beckmann.


Critical time(s) to water per 1.5 metre row (3.5 – 4 sq. metres)

litres needed


When flowers form and during pod development

7.5/ week


Before soil gets dry to 1 cm blow surface

3.75 when young, then 7 every 2 weeks


Don’t let soil get dry from 4 weeks after transplanting to head development

3.75 to 5.5 per week

Brussels sprouts

Don’t let soil dry out for 4 weeks after transplanting

3.75 to 5.5 per week


Head development. Water frequently in dry weather

7.5 per week


Before soil surface gets dry during early root enlargement

3.75 when young, then 7.5 every 2 weeks


Water frequently until head development for best crop

7.5 / week


Water frequently for best crop

7.5 / week


When tassels form and when cobs swell

3.75 /week


. Water frequently from flowering through fruit development

3.75 / week


Water frequently for best crop

2 per week


In dry weather, water in early stage to get plants going

½ to 1 per week if soil is very dry


Before soil gets bone-dry throughout season

3.75 / week in early stages


Steady supply from flowering through harvest

7.5 / week


Steady supply from flowering through harvest

7.5 / week


Steady supply once corms the size of marbles

7.5 / week


Steady supply for once roots begin to swell noticeably

7.5 / week


Steady supply once flower begin to set fruit

3.75 / week


For 3 to 4 weeks after transplanting & once flowers begin to set fruit

3.75  twice a week

Who Needs a Trim?

Pruning is good for your plants. It encourages healthy new growth, a fuller shape, and better blooms next year. All shrubs and perennials can be pruned once they’ve finished blooming, including culinary herbs. August is a good month for this.

If you keep fruit trees, summer pruning can improve both this and next year’s crops. This year’s shoots will be long, and soft for most of their length. Trim by at least a third to allow more air flow and sunshine, which will increase fruit size and sweetness. Removing new shoots also helps produce a larger harvest next year because it encourages the tree to produce more fruiting spurs instead of top growth.

Berry canes like blackberry and raspberry grow the first year and fruit the second. Cut down spent and non-fruiting old canes, and cut back any new canes where you need to control spread.

Some Thoughts for the Future

Try shifting perspective, and celebrate all the hot, sunny places with succulent plants who store water in their leaves so thrive in heat and drought. There are the Sempervivums, like houseleek. There is our native stone crop (Sedum spp.), and native cacti: prickly pear (Opuntia), the more rare Pediocactus, even Alberta’s pincushion (Escobaria). Avoid the lovely pampas grass (Cortaderia). It can become invasive. Even worse is Yucca, whose roots can grow to 30 cm diameter, break through pavement, tunnel down through house weepers and under perimeter walls, sucking up all moisture they can find. Planters are the safest route for both.

Try xeriscaping a dry slope or spot in the yard with rockeries of sedums and drought-loving bulbs like Babiana, Brodiaea, or Lycoris. Hardy grasses, like Carex, Pennisetum or Calamagrostis also offer many size, shape and colour choices. There is a species list of our native grasses at the Canadian Wildlife Federation ornamental native grasses resource

Did you know that xeriscaping is it is one of the lowest maintenance landscape designs? Okanagan Xeriscaping Association website has seminars, and a fabulous plant data base.  Xeriscape

And finally …

Feeling that old August “Gypsy Foot?” After you’ve ambled through Milner Gardens and Woodland, drive to Comox to enjoy a snack on the patio at Filberg Park’s Summer Kitchen, or slurp ice cream cones and wave at the goats on the roof at Coombs market and garden centre. As you take in the landscape designs and garden bed choices in these festive places think of how your own garden spaces can evolve into a year-round green celebration for humans and critters alike -- except, maybe (for urban dwellers), goats.