What to Plant in August

For much of the nation, August marks the “dog days” of summer. It’s peak heat season and chances are good you’re focused on keeping your current vegetables alive through the heat. However, you also need to spare some thought for your fall harvest.  What to plant in August is can depend on your growing zone and other factors.

August is the time to start planting what you’ll harvest in the cooler months, but what should you focus on? We’ve got a few answers and some important guidance for you.

Check Your Growing Zone

When it comes to cool weather gardening (which is what you’re planning, even though it’s sweltering outside right now in August), your USDA hardiness zone will play a big role in what you can plant.

For instance, if you’re up in Zone 3 near the Canadian border, August is the time to plant cold-weather stuff. However, if you’re in zone 9a or 9b, now’s the time to start thinking about your second planting of summer veggies like tomatoes.

Each region has different requirements, so know your zone. Not sure about yours? Check out the USDA’s Interactive Plant Hardiness Zone Map.

Zones 3 and 4

If you live in Zone 3 or 4, it’s time to get your cold-weather crops in the ground before the first frost. Spinach is a great choice, particularly for the most northerly Zone. For Zone 4, consider planting hardy lettuce varieties that can handle the cold. Other options include things like Swiss chard, kale, and arugula.

As a tip, many of these are cold-weather plants and don’t do well with heat. An unexpected heat wave could spell disaster, so we recommend planting heat-tolerant varieties. With the chaotic summertime temps we’ve seen across the nation this year, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Zones 5 and 6

For those in Zones 5a/5b and 6a/6b, a variety of different options may be appealing. Beets and radishes are great choices for this time of year. Broccoli and other brassicas can also be excellent options since they like it cool but not cold.

For those in warmer areas of these regions, you can also go with cucumbers, which love warm weather but can put up with a few cooler nights. However, we recommend choosing a compact variety that doesn’t sprawl, which will help protect the plant from colder temperatures.

Bush beans are also great choices, whether you go with snap beans or green beans. With warm soil temperatures, your beans will keep going long into fall, giving you fresh food for the table and options for canning.

Zones 7 and 8

Located in Zones 7 or 8? At Stoney Creek Farm, we’re smack in the middle of Zone 7a and love this time of year. There’s a whole host of fall vegetables we love to add to our garden. Carrots are great choices, particularly if you go with a fast-germinating variety. Now is also the time to get your pumpkins in the ground so that you’re ready when October rolls around, and so that you have plenty for homemade pumpkin pie in November.

If you’re a little farther south in Zone 8a/8b, you can go with another planting of summer squash or you can opt for snow or sugar peas, both of which can deal with cooler temperatures quite easily. Zucchini is another option, but you may also be able to get in one last planting of other squashes, like pattypan.

Zones 9 and 10

Zones 9 and 10 round out the continental US and cover much of the Deep South, from Florida through Texas and parts of Arizona and California. If you’re in Zone 9a/9b, this is a great time for tomatoes and if you’re in Florida, the rainy season will help give you better yields. Other options to get in the ground during August include cabbage, peppers, eggplant, Brussels sprouts, endive, and celery. You can plant bush and lima beans, onions, and turnips now, too.

If you’re in Zone 10, August is more about harvesting than planting, but you can get some bulbs in the ground, like garlic. Okra, pumpkin, eggplant, peppers, tomatillo, Seminole pumpkin, sweet potato, papaya, and amaranth are also great choices if you live in this zone since the growing season is so long.

Beyond Zone 10

If you live in the Florida Keys, Hawaii, or Puerto Rico, then you have year-round gardening options, although these will vary dramatically on where you’re located in these areas (proximity to the ocean, mountain heights, etc.).

Tips to Keep Your Garden Going Strong Through August and Beyond

If you’re planting your fall garden in August, we’ve got a few quick tips to help you maximize your yields and minimize your stress.

  • Watch the Water – As the mercury falls, many plants require less water. Keep an eye on your forecasts to make sure that you’re not overwatering. This is particularly important if you’re up in Zone 3. Zone 9 and 10 folks can water as usual, although many areas are still in the rainy season at this time of year, and you may not need much supplemental watering.
  • Watch Your Spacing – Many plants require specific spacing to thrive. For instance, plant your spinach at least one foot apart. Lettuces can be planted an inch apart and then thinned as necessary. Beets need around five inches of space, and brassicas like broccoli need some elbow room (around 16 inches).
  • Know Your Plants’ Nutrient Requirements – Rich soil usually has plenty of nutrients to support plant growth, but knowing what your plants need can help ensure you’re able to amend your garden soil if necessary. As an example, beets need a lot of phosphorous to thrive, while spinach requires plenty of nitrogen.

Wrapping It Up

While fall might be right around the corner, that doesn’t mean you need to close your garden up. Even if you’re up near the Canadian border, there are still several weeks of growing left – plenty of time for a crop of fresh, home-grown vegetables. Planting now ensures that you’ll have nutritious food to serve fresh or preserve for use during the winter.