Believe it or not, August can be a busy month in the garden. Watering, of course, is at the top of the list and it is important to remember that we can just as easily kill stuff by over-watering as under-watering. Getting just the right amount of water on a plant is tricky and if it is any consolation, even professionals like myself still manage to knock off a few plants now and then - especially when it is this hot. I have written many, many words over the years about how to water properly for optimal plant growth and conservation of resources. Please refer to my past column from last June, “It’s Time to get Serious About Watering” (which can be found right here).
Feeding is another important task for this month, especially when it is this hot and we are watering constantly. All that liquid washes out the nutrients from the root zone and the plants are left hungry. This is not so important for shrubs and trees, but for our annuals, perennials, and veggies it is crucial to keep them fed during these summer months or they will just peter out. Soluble fertilizers can be applied 2 to 3 times a week, while slow release types may only need one more application to last the summer. For vibrant colors and fabulous harvests, don’t skimp on the food.
August is actually a good time to do some pruning. Plants can be thinned and shaped, suckers and water sprouts removed, and hedges and vines reined in. Please don’t do any severe pruning when it is this hot or you can sun burn the newly exposed interior branches of the shrubs. I always trim back my Kiwi and wisteria in late July or early August.
Roses will continue to bloom as long as we keep dead heading, feeding, and when necessary controlling insects and diseases. Morning dew is always a warning sign to watch out for mildew. Catching it before it takes over will make your life a lot easier.
As for lawns, I continue to water and feed my lawn - but then I only have about 500 square feet so it’s not a big deal. If yours has gone by the wayside, you should be reassured that by the end of the month the nights will be cooling down and (with a little water) the lawn will be waking up from its summer slumber. Late August and most of September are the ideal months to restore your lawn, so don’t miss out on this once-a-year opportunity.
I often spread another layer of mulch in my garden in August, for the simple reason that it smothers the weeds, holds in the moisture, insulates the soil from the heat, and releases some nutrients into the ground. Never skimp on compost.
After last week’s column on the importance of continuing to plant, I probably should have listed this first! Summer planting is easy as long as we get plenty of moisture down and around the root ball. The warm soils will accelerate the rooting process, and again with a little food, those new plants will take off like a rocket. There are so many summer blooming perennials, and even shrubs, to choose from this time of year that there is no excuse for not finding something exciting to add to our gardens.
So, if your garden is looking tired, don’t just give up. Put out a little effort in the weeding, planting, feeding, and pruning department and you will get a whole new lease on life.