August this year appears to be holding true to its reputation for hot weather. From Alaska
through the Northern Rockies, the seasonal “dog days” of summer usually occur during this
month, so expect the expectable. Assure that your garden and landscape have adequate
water through the hot weather. It’s okay to let your lawn “brown out” this time of year if you’d like to conserve water.
Native fescues that are common in seed mixes are great at going dormant in the heat and
then reviving as the cool temperatures and moisture of autumn arrive. Regardless of whether
you stop watering the lawn or give it deep water 2-3 times a week to encourage deeper roots
instead of daily light soakings, you should be mowing at 2 ½ inches height or more during
the peak of hot weather.
Heavy mulch does wonders for perennial beds, shrubs and trees. Assure everything has a layer of at least 3-6” and you’ll have a lot less watering to worry about as well as a healthier root zone for all your plants. Trees and shrubs should have at least a 3-foot ring of mulch around the base if they are located outside of the landscape beds by themselves. A good rule of thumb is 1 foot of bark ring diameter for every 1 inch of trunk caliper. A 6-inch trunk diameter on a specimen tree should have a 6-foot mulched area around its base; a 10-inch should have a 10-foot ring etc. Mulch has a great benefit of minimizing weed competition too.
From mid-August and all of September is the time to plant “cool season” crops you want to harvest in late fall. Direct seed members of the allium family (Onions, leeks, chives, garlic, and shallots) to grow bulb starts for next spring. Most cabbage relatives can be planted now to take advantage of the cool rainy weather just around the corner. Most vegetable gardens are in full production, so there is plenty of material to add to the compost pile.
Though you’ll start seeing bulbs available in the “big box” stores soon, hold off planting them until the heat dissipates. They’ll do much better if they get started with a little moisture and cooler temperatures than if you plant them now and hope for the best. Wait to divide perennials and planting new shrubs or trees as well. Soon the nurseries will be putting things on sale, so be ready for some great deals on fall plants to install.
TIP OF THE MONTH:
Deadhead flowers on a consistent basis to enjoy the best flowering. Roses are especially
responsive to regular deadheading and fertilizing. They are called the “Queen of the
Flowers” for a reason. With regular attention; pruning, fertilizing, deadheading, fungus
control, irrigation and mulch, they are hard to beat for spectacular color, fragrance, and
aesthetic foliage. Near the end of this month, discontinue fertilizer to assure new growth
has a chance to harden off before freezing temperatures hit. Let the spent flowers form
rose hips as well, to trigger the plants to prepare for winter dormancy as well. Until then,
deadhead to enjoy the largest and most beautiful blooms.
QUESTION FOR THE EXPERT:
Q: I’m very worried about grasshoppers being as bad as they were last year. What I can do to
make sure they don’t plague us like last year?
A: Unfortunately, grasshopper bait is most affective during the 1st through the 3rd instars
(stages of grasshopper development) and that time is past. However, the more adults you
kill, the fewer eggs they can lay for next year and subsequent years. Commercial grade bran
bait is the most recommended variety for large-scale application and it’s quite effective,
however, most homeowners need something more practically sized and priced. There are
grasshopper baits available in local outlets, and they are effective at killing grasshoppers.
This late in the year however, they can often lay their eggs before they die, so another
alternative is neem oil, a naturally derived oil spray from the Neem Tree, native to
Australia. It is an insecticide you can spray nearly any time of the year and any surface
that has the spray is poison to insects though quite innocuous to humans and pets. I actually
enjoy the smell and use it frequently throughout my landscape for fruit tree spray, roses
and any plants that seem to be getting too much insect attention.
Written, edited and distributed by Di Braun for free personal use by those who enjoy gardening and plant culture. Please contact the writer for details on redistribution through commercial entities.