Gardening In August: The Heat Is On And I’m Tapping Out

By Nikki Tilley | August 4, 2022
by Nikki Tilley
August 4, 2022

Aww, the sweltering heat and mosquito-filled muggy air, the dry-in-minutes concrete-like soil, and the brown, crispy leaves of plant life” — these are peak season attractions of my late summer August garden. And then there’s me, donning sticky wet, clinging-to-my-skin clothes after an hour or two of watering. This is usually the moment when I decide to tap out. You win Mother Nature! I can’t take it anymore.

Raggedy Looking Summer Garden – In Spite of Everything

Summers in North Carolina have always been hot, but nowadays it seems to be getting even hotter, and the air more stagnant and unbearable. That gusty spring air I cursed at for knocking down plants and drying everything out is now but a dream. All that’s left is me wishing for the slightest breeze just to cool off. I’d gladly settle for a draft wind from someone walking by real fast. Now is the time that I don’t mind looking foolish trying to mimic a rain dance. “C’mon rain gods, give me just one good drop!” I get excited each time I hear the distant roll of thunder. Unfortunately, it seems like everyone except my location gets blessed by the cooling off storms, and even if we are lucky enough to catch one, it’s short lived. The hot sun returns to bake our gardens once again while making it more humid than it was before. How is that even possible?

I do everything I should: water in the morning when it’s cooler or early evening after it’s cooled down some, choose plants that are native to my area or adapted to my climate, amend soil with compost and apply mulch to create a healthier environment for plants and help retain much needed moisture. I even let my garden fend for itself by making it as sustainable as possible, allowing beneficial insects and wildlife to control pests. Yet, it never fails. Every year the last few seasons my garden goes from beauty to beast by August. In spite of all my efforts to prevent this, the changing climate keeps putting a halt to my plans of enjoying a beautiful garden all season. 

Because of the milder winter temperatures and warmer than usual springs, most of the summer blooming plants have already flowered, long before they’re supposed to. It’s happening earlier and earlier now. By August there isn’t much to look at other than an occasional hit or miss flower; normally a dahlia or zinnia can still be found. The majority of what’s left is mostly brown, wilted seed heads, which I leave for the birds. What plants have survived the scorching summer heat are oftentimes stunted too, another thing I’ve noticed with the flip-floppy weather early on. And that’s not counting the poor production from out-of-the-blue frosts or low-dipping temps during times when it should be warm. What is that about anyway?

I love gardening. I’m a plant addict and can’t have enough of them around me. But try as I may, gardening in August isn’t for me. It’s just too hot! July harvests are done and the flowering plants have ceased blooming and withered away. All that’s left is a raggedy looking summer garden. The heat is on, and I’m tapping out.

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