August is the hottest month in the Black Hills, and this summer has been especially Gobi-like. Step out from under the canopy created by ponderosa pines to discover why it's also one of the busiest fire months.  

Extend-the-season greenhouses like mine see little use in August, though repair and maintenance and cleaning are part of the routine.  I also add some camo burlap to provide shade while working inside.  The burlap is also inside, attached to the ceiling hooks that suspend the shelving chains.


As the picture reveals, lath houses are ideal for August in the Black Hills, since the lattice panels on all sides cut way back on both 1) fierce winds and 2) high temperatures that can easily climb above 100 degrees Farenheit.  They are easy to build from cheap materials, while some gardeners make theirs by keeping only the frames from old sheds or aluminum "tarp" enclosures.

August Gardening Tips Selected for the Black Hills 

Irrigation is the main activity that the gardener has to do frequently in August. The best way to water can vary greatly depending on the garden situation. Hanging baskets and full, healthy container plants can need a thorough watering every day, or occasionally more often. 

At the other end of the spectrum, established trees and large shrubs might not need any irrigation, or at most the occasional deep, thorough watering. Flower and vegetable beds and semi-established hardy plants fall somewhere in between. In such cases, always allow the soil surface to dry between waterings. 

Further, for plants with a root system that is at least somewhat developed allow the top layer of soil, say the top third to half of the estimated root system, to dry between waterings. You can test for moisture content in loose soils with your finger, or use a moisture meter in any soils. Be gentle when inserting the meter into packed or rocky soil as the tip can break off.


If your plants wilt, it is likely because the soil in the root zone is fully dry. Before you water, however, make sure the soil is indeed dry; sometime plants in quite wet soils can show symptoms similar to dehydration. This leads to overwatering and sometimes to root rot or plant failure.

Going on summer vacation? Hey, we can't blame you. That said, keeping the garden hydrated is always a priority to the gardener and you will need a plan. The best option is a friend, neighbor, or family member that can cover for you. While they may not know the nuances of your garden, they can probably figure out that the wilting annuals need a drink immediately. If that is not an option, consider getting yourself a timer and think through your irrigation system. 

A water timer can be attached to the hose spigot and set to turn the water on at certain intervals. Set the hose with sprinklers/drip system up so that it will cover the needs of your garden as best you can. We can help you get a tentative plan and provide the products needed to cover this.  [Special thanks to the University of Nebraska at Lincoln]

More August tips from Portland Nursery . . .

Build a lath house this August.  August always means high winds and soaring temperatures in the Black Hills.  Consider building a simple lath house from scrap materials as a solution. Well-appointed gardens never are without them.  A smaller one (top) is easy to make, or the one below can be put up as well, with beds in the ground and platforms for containers.


How To Store Potatoes For 20-Plus Years

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If 20 years sounds like a long time to store potatoes, then it might surprise you to know that “fresh” potatoes in the grocery store are often 11 months old when you buy them. Modern developments in commercial food storage allow growers to store produce with a chemical (1-methylcyclopropene), which extends the shelf life of vegetables.


Of course, fresh potatoes won’t last 20 years, but you can dehydrate them to get that kind of long-term shelf life while maintaining nutritional value.

Now save carrots for 20 years with a dehydrator