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August Gardening Tips

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Temperatures Soar and Color Sizzles

Some plants thrive as summer heats up. If your perennial beds lack color, try a few of these plants that flower through sweltering August afternoons. All are drought-tolerant once established.

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia spp.) brightens the garden with cheery yellow blooms perfect for cutting. It’s a good choice for a wildlife garden. Flowers beckon butterflies; seed heads are a goldfinch favorite.

Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) unfurls silvery foliage accented with lavender blooms. Plants are deer-resistant.

Threadleaf tickseed (Coreopsis verticillata) opens daisylike blooms in shades of yellow, white, or pink. Low-maintenance plants have fine foliage and open flowers steadily until frost.

Yarrow (Achillea) sounds a steady note of drought-resistant color in the summer garden. Look for flowers in many shades, from white, to red, to peach, to yellow.

Test Garden Tip: Even the most reliable summer bloomers stage a stronger show when you faithfully remove faded flowers.

August Watering Tips

Water plants a few hours before applying pesticides, especially during times of drought. In these conditions, plants have less water in tissues, and as pesticides enter cells, they may burn leaves.

Avoid watering during midday, when more water will evaporate than soak into soil.

It’s not uncommon for plants to wilt on hot afternoons even though soil has adequate moisture. The wilting occurs because plants are losing water faster than their roots can absorb it. Leaves should revive by early evening, after the sun is no longer directly on leaves. If not, water deeply.

Some shrubs need weekly deep watering now. Rhododendrons are beginning to form flower buds for next year’s show, and adequate water is vital. Fruiting plants, such as hollies and firethorn, need water to ensure berries mature and don’t drop.

Test Garden Tip: Water newly planted trees, shrubs, and perennials — any plants you added to your yard last fall or spring. These plants need weekly irrigation to ensure roots establish deeply.

Garden-Fresh Flavors from the Herb and Vegetable Garden

Peppers: Pick peppers at any stage of development. The longer fruits stay on a plant, the more intense flavor becomes — sweet peppers grow sweeter, and hot peppers develop a stronger burn.

Herbs: It’s best to pick herbs before they flower. Harvest herbs on a dry morning, after dew has dried. The exception is mint, which you want to pick at midday, when essential oil concentrations in leaves are greatest. Avoid harvesting herbs following a rain, when foliage is wet.

Tomatoes: Even though tomatoes continue to ripen after picking, fruits develop greatest flavor when allowed to ripen on plants. The exception is cherry tomatoes, which are prone to splitting. Pick these tasty morsels as soon as fruits start showing color.

It’s Time to Stop…

Fertilizing roses. Stop feeding roses this month so that growth can harden sufficiently before killing frost arrives. This will help reduce the amount of winter kill.

Pruning evergreens. As August arrives, put away the pruners as far as evergreens are concerned. If you prune now, you risk plants pushing new growth, which won’t harden off and will be killed during winter’s chill.

Ignoring zucchini. Daily inspections of squash vines are a must. In August heat, small, tasty fruit can transform into inedible baseball bats overnight.

Composting weed seeds. Unless your compost pile gets hot enough to kill seeds, it’s best to destroy weeds with seed heads. If your town has a community composting facility, place seedy weeds at the curb. The community compost will be hot enough to kill seeds.

August Garden Chores for the Northeast

Pull annuals that are past their prime and aren’t likely to recover. Cover bare soil to deter weeds.

Take cuttings of plants you want to overwinter. Choices may include fuchsia, scented geranium, coleus, or wax begonia. Stick 3- to 4-inch green stem cuttings in soil. Place pots in a shaded spot, and keep soil moist.

Make sure mower height is raised so you’re cutting grass higher. When grass is taller, it shades soil beneath, which reduces water evaporation from soil. Taller grass generally has deeper roots, which helps it withstand drought better.

September is peony planting time. That means August is the month to order peony roots. You should have peonies in the ground about a month before the average first frost date.

Gardening Tips For July

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Gardening in July: This is one of the most productive months in the garden, but there’s still time to plant and plenty to enjoy

Perennials

  • Keep up with deadheading bedding plants, sweet peas and roses. The flowers on dahlias will need to be cut off once they’ve started to fade.
  • Many of the traditional English cottage perennials such as lupins, delphiniums and geraniums are starting to look past their best now so cut them right back down and they’ll resprout. They may not flower again but they’ll look a lot better.
  • delphiniums in a garden
Fruit and vegetables
  • Water and feed everything regularly, especially tomatoes, to avoid problems. Also tie them in to their canes and pinch out the side shoots if necessary.
  • The last sowing of French beans and carrots can be done now. Transplant purple sprouting broccoli and winter leeks to their final position, or buy them as plugs from a garden center or nursery.
  • Keep sowing seeds for salads, a few at a time, as well as autumn crop peas, turnips and spring cabbages.
  • Keep an eye on apples and plums to make sure there are not too many on each stem and thin out if necessary – just three or four is enough.
  • There should still be some strawberries ripening. Check there is enough straw under the plants to keep fruit off the soil. If you’ve been pegging down the strawberry runners, by now they should have formed enough roots to enable you to transplant them, either to pots to keep safe until they can be put in the ground, or straight into a new strawberry bed.
courgettes - nice ripe Zucchinis growing over garden fence

Harvest

  • Strawberries and other soft fruit should be ripe and ready to collect now.
  • Pick and freeze or dry herbs so they can be used later.
  • A lot of the earlier-sown vegetables will be ready in July, for instance peas and broad beans, French and runner beans, globe artichokes, carrots and beetroot.
  • Keep an eye on fruit; cherries, peaches, gooseberries, raspberries and early plums are really starting to ripen.

Watering

  • This is something that’s easy to do, but easy to get wrong, and often the main problem is under watering. If you spray an area of planting for one minute and move on, the water is unlikely to have gone deeper than a few millimeters into the soil, so won’t have penetrated anywhere near the roots.
  • You need to water like a rain cloud. One way to test this is to put a jam jar in among the plants you’re watering and stop when there’s about 2cm of water in the jar. That’s likely to take about 10-20 minutes on each area, which is understandably daunting. It’s one of the reasons why leaky hose systems, which deliver water to the soil via a porous hose and operate at the turn of a tap, are so appealing.
  • It’s a good time to get rid of strongly growing perennial weeds such as ground elder and bindweed. Use a systemic weed killer such as glyphosate that will enter the weed through its leaves and should kill it off.
Planting trends from the Chelsea Flower Show 2017

Roses

  • July in rose-growing circles is known as the month for black spot. If you find it, remove the affected leaves and spray the plant with fungicide. The same goes for another fungus, mildew, which can also become a problem in July if the roses are stressed by having too much or too little water. Try to spray the fungicide early in the morning so you don’t affect any bees that might be buzzing around the plant. Finally don’t forget to deadhead the roses to keep them flowering.
Pink rose flowers in a garden

Roses are the epitome of summer but check for pests and diseases in July

Lawn

  • Keep mowing the lawn if it’s not parched and, if it’s looking tired, July is the last opportunity to apply a summer fertilizer. If it’s dry you may need to water your lawn. Use a specialist lawn weed killer if necessary.

Hedges

  • If you have a conifer hedge, especially a leylandii one, keep a close eye on it at this time of year for cypress aphids. It’s difficult to see the aphids themselves so look for brown patches in the hedge and a black sooty mold along the stem. If you find it, the best thing to do is prune out any brown shoots and spray affected areas with pesticide.

Deadheading bedding plants and border perennials is important to keep your displays looking fresh and tidy. Get more flowers in borders, containers and hanging baskets by adding a liquid feed once a week.

IF YOU ONLY DO ONE THING…

…Go into borders, lift leaves and have a look around. Often it’s not a good idea to go looking for problems, but in the garden it pays to have a rummage, as the fresh growth of the past months can hide and feed pests, and weeds can grow unseen under it.

Summer Rose Care Tips

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downloadSummer Rose Care Tips

Aahh, mid summer. This is the time of the year when all the annuals you planted this spring are finally blooming. And the long, warm days seem to intensify the fragrance of summer blooming Lilies and roses. It’s the time to revel in the glory of the garden.

But, then you notice a few flaws. Uh, oh, that rose plant over there just doesn’t look like it’s doing very well. What’s the deal? Mid summer, in all it’s glory, can also create stressful conditions for plants. All that heat causes plants to move water through their systems (evapotranspiration) pretty quickly. If plants don’t have enough water, they get stressed out in the heat. They can’t just pick themselves up and move into the shade or go get a drink of water like we can.

As you look a bit closer you notice there are some funny looking bugs covering the new growth on your roses. Mid summer can bring out the aphids in full force. Especially, if you haven’t had any recent heavy rains to wash them off the plants.

Then you notice that a rose in the corner has some funny spots on its leaves, a few leaves are turning yellow, and some have fallen off the plant. Oh god, blackspot!

And, then you start thinking that perhaps your roses aren’t blooming as much as they should be. If your soil is a bit low on the fertility scale, the blooms may be in short supply. What to do, what to do!! First, don’t worry. These minor problems are just that — minor. And, they’re easily fixed.

Water

The most important thing your roses need this time of year is water. They demand the equivalent of at least one inch of rain each week. That’s about equal to one gallon of water per plant. So, if it hasn’t rained, give your roses some water.

The best way to water your roses is with a soaker hose that causes the water to slowly saturate the soil. These are usually made out of recycled tires and can be laid right on top of the soil and covered with mulch. This works great — no evaporation and the water slowly soaks into the soil. I actually run mine overnight. The mulch on top of the hose prevents any water from squirting onto the roses, so watering at night is great. Just remember to turn off the hose in the morning. Or, better yet, set it on a timer.

Water is the ultimate “fertilizer.” It moves nutrients from the soil into the plant. And a consistent supply prevents the rose from getting stressed by heat. A nonstressed, healthy rose can better defend itself from insects and disease.

Bugs

AphidsMid summer bug problems on roses are usually caused by aphids. They are almost always found on the new growth of rose plants. They seem to come out in full force in mid summer when there hasn’t been much rain. Aphids suck the juices out of your roses and can cause leaves to curl and be disfigured.

The best defense against aphids is healthy plants that have received adequate amounts of water. The second best defense is a good supply of ladybugs in your garden. I release these aphid eaters every two weeks during early summer and mid summer. They really clean up the aphid problems. Sometimes I have to wait a few days after the release to see the effects, but they do a great job in reducing aphid problems.

If the rain hasn’t come and the ladybugs haven’t done their job, then you need to stop the aphids before they take over. Insectidal soaps work great — they don’t hurt bees, fish, kids or you. But they’ll kill most soft bodied insects. It works by suffocating them.

The trick to success with insectidal soap is to apply it twice. First, spray it on the aphids (it has to have contact with the bug to work) late in the day — usually right before sunset. Spraying late in the day prevents leaf damage caused by the sun hitting the spray or heat reacting with the spray. Then, two days later go out and spray any aphids that escaped your first spray. You’ll be amazed at how quickly they reproduce! If you miss one, you’ll quickly have hundreds in a matter of days. I think they’re born pregnant.

Another quick way to get rid of aphids is to squish them between your fingers. Or, if you can’t handle that, then wash them off the plant with water — a hose set on high pressure works well (be careful not to blast the leaves off your plants).

Disease

blackspotRose diseases are what keeps lots of people from growing roses. The idea of dragging out an arsenal of chemicals and spraying them over the entire garden once a week is enough to cause even the most undaunted gardener to wonder what the heck they’re doing.

What to do? First, decide what you’re willing to accept. Remember the words to a Joni Mitchell song, “please farmer farmer put away that DDT, leave the spots on the apples and give me the birds and the bees.” If chemical control is not for you, you can still grow roses. First, you have to select roses that are less susceptible to disease and then you have to keep them healthy by planting them in the right spot and giving them enough water and the right kind of food.

Right plant in the right place. Every garden is filled with “microclimates” that can be good for some plants and certain death for others. You know that corner spot in your garden that always has mosquitoes and slugs hanging out in the damp shade? Don’t plant a rose there. It will get disease, unless its made out of plastic. Plant your rose in sun with good air circulation and it will have what it needs to stay healthy without spraying. If it gets disease, consider replacing it with a variety that has more disease resistance.

Organic sprays. If you have a disease problem, there are organic products you can apply to your plants to prevent and control the diseases. Before World War II, there were very few agricultural chemicals used to control plant disease. And guess what, people were growing roses way before World War II.

To avoid disease problem, remember to: select roses that have good resistance to disease, plant them in the right spot, and feed and water them well.

Food

Roses are known as “heavy feeders” (or how about gluttons) when it comes to using up soil nutrients. But, they convert all those nutrients into a ton of blossoms, which is why we grow them, right?! So, if we expect them to bloom, we have to feed them.

We’ve got lots of pages devoted to fertilizing, which I’ve listed below. But, before you leave this page, there are a few pointers to keep in mind when fertilizing.

  • Don’t apply liquid fertilizers to dry soils. The roses will suck up the fertilizer quickly and it may cause the leaves to burn.
  • Avoid using liquid chemical fertilizers — especially on Rugosas! These types of fertilizers cause the most leaf burn and leaf drop. You don’t want to hurt your plants with fertilizers.
  • Feed the soil, which in turn feeds the plants.