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August garden calendar for Central Florida

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August is often considered the start of the Central Florida gardening season. Even though your garden should already be full of heat-tolerant vegetables and perennial crops, now is the time to be thinking about the next season. Most warm-season crops can be planted now and they'll have plenty of time to mature before winter. A few cool-season crops can also be seeded now that will provide good eating in late fall and early winter.

The best vegetables to plant in the garden now are pole beans, sweet corn, eggplant (transplants), okra, southern peas, peppers (transplants), pumpkin, squash, tomatoes and watermelon. A few cool-season crops can also be started now. Try broccoli, celery, collards, bunching onions and shallots.

Now is also a good time to add to your herb garden. Annual herbs will provide a fall harvest and perennial herbs will become well-established before winter.

You will need to check the moisture levels of young plants daily. Their small root systems will dry out quickly in the sun and heat. Daily watering will probably be required until they become established.

Trim back tired-looking annuals, then keep them watered and fertilized to stimulate fresh fall growth. If they're beyond help, pull them out, amend the soil with organic matter, and replant with another round of warm-season annuals.

Summer fruits and vegetables are available in abundance this month. Avocado, mango, key lime, Persian lime, carambola, elderberry, banana, guava, cattley guava, papaya and pineapple are all ripe and ready to pick in August. The vegetable harvest this month includes many leafy greens like Okinawa spinach, longevity spinach, malabar spinach, Egyptian spinach, cassava, chaya, Abelmoschus manihot and cranberry hibiscus.

In the landscape this month, a few plants are putting on a great show. You can't miss blooming specimens of Tibouchina granulosa, Quisqualis, firespike, tecoma, thevetia, russelia and a great number of gingers. If your landscape looks drab this time of year, consider adding a few of these plants to brighten up the dog days of summer!

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