For August … Our Garden Editor offers tips and ideas for you.
Pick peppers, tomatoes, and tomatillos early in the morning on the day you plan to eat them. Select squash, okra, eggplants, and cucumbers when they are small and tender. Use sharp clippers or a small knife to harvest these to avoid tearing the vines or stalks. Southern peas should also be picked early, as they ripen, for best flavor. Just make sure the pod is filled out before harvesting.
For a big show of fall flowers, prune and feed hybrid teas, such as ‘Mr. Lincoln,’ and everblooming roses, such as ‘Knock Out,’ now. Reduce healthy canes by about one-third, and remove any dead ones. Add a thin layer of composted manure around the base of your plants to improve the soil. Feed with a rose fertilizer, such Schultz Expert Gardener Rose Food 19-24-24 or Schultz Rose Food Liquid Plant Food 10-12-12.
back leggy annuals now so they will be full in the fall. Cut back impatiens (shown at left), coleus, begonias, narrow-leaf zinnias, and salvias by one-third. Water and then fertilize. Use a slow-release, granular fertilizer such as Dynamite Flowers & Vegetables 13-13-13 or Scotts All Purpose Flower & Vegetable Continuous Release Plant Food 10-10-10.
Keep a watchful eye on your pots, window boxes, and hanging baskets this month. By now the plants have grown out and their roots have developed fully, maximizing water usage. Monitor your plants closely, and water regularly; daily watering is not unusual.
If you love split-leaf philodendrons, but do not have a lot of room, try growing a ‘Xanadu’ philodendron instead. Its smaller size makes it ideal in tighter locations. It’s very easy to please and thrives in low to medium light. Feed regularly, and allow the soil to slightly dry between watering.
These are some of the best perennials for shade gardens. Good choices include ‘August Moon,’ ‘Blue Angel,’ ‘Patriot,’ and ‘Halcyon.’ Look for these at your garden center or nursery. There are hundreds of selections. One of the best mail-order sources for hostas in the South is Plant Delights Nursery, www.plantdelights.com or (919) 772-4794.
Plant colorful shrubs that thrive in the summer heat and sun now. Good choices include angel’s trumpet (Brugmansia sp.), shown at left; bush allamanda (Allamanda schottii); dwarf red powderpuff (Callianadra haematocephala ‘Nana’); ‘Gold Mound’ duranta; Caribbean copper plant (Euphorbia cotinifolia); firebush (Hamelia patens); yellow bells (Tecoma stans); peregrina (Jatropha integerrima); orange cestrum (Cestrum aurantiacum); and oleander. Use all these plants in landscape beds or large containers. In beds where you have more room, you can plant several of the same selection for greater impact. In containers, use single plants as accents for a bright show of color.
- Entire State lawn care--If you haven’t fertilized since spring, apply a 15-0-15 fertilizer such as Lesco Professional Turf Fertilizer or Sta-Green Centipede Weed & Feed before mid-September. Use 4 to 5 pounds per 1,000 square feet of lawn, and lightly water it in.
- Great new plant--‘Diamond Frost’ euphorbia produces masses of tiny, white flowers continually from spring until frost. In frost-free areas of Florida it won’t stop blooming. Look for it at your local garden center. Plant in full sun to partial shade, and expect it to grow 18 to 24 inches tall and wide. It provides a good contrast to larger-leaf plants and can be placed in the ground too.
North and Central
- perennials--Add transplants of perennials such as lion’s tail (Leonotis leonurus), shown at right; Mexican bush sage; Cape honeysuckle (Tecoma capensis); and cigar flower in a sunny spot for blooms this fall. For a partially shaded area, use Philippine violet (Barleria cristata) and firespike (Odontonema strictum).
Central and South
- citrus, avocados, and mangoes--Care for these plants now with a little feeding. You can improve the fertility of the soil by adding a thin layer of composted manure around the base of your plants. You can also use a commercial product such as RiteGreen Citrus, Avocado, & Mango Fertilizer 4-6-8. Scatter the fertilizer under the branch spread of the tree and outward past the branch line. Water it in lightly.
- palms--To replenish nutrients leached out of the soil during summer rains, feed palms with a special low-nitrogen fertilizer such as RiteGreen Palm Fertilizer 7-3-7 or Lesco 8-10-10 Palm and Tropical Ornamental Fertilizer.
Bright Summer Pots
Use large containers to provide instant focus and strong color accents. Colorful foliage plants can make these containers eye-catching displays on patios, on stairs, and around fountains and birdbaths. Consider easy-care choices such as coleus. ‘Pink Chaos’ will provide a beautiful display until frost. Strong-textured plants, such as agaves and yuccas, can offer additional accents. Try Beschorneria Hybrids or manfreda with their long, curved flower stalks and unusual flowers. All of these attract hummingbirds. For additional interest consider an edging of wax-leaf begonias. Or try small-flowered million bells (a petunia relative), which trails in colors such as terra-cotta, purple, and yellow.
- Turfgrass care--Delay lawn fertilizing until early fall. Brown patches in turf at this time of year usually indicate poor water distribution. Check sprinkler heads, and use a hose to water dry spots. Raise the mowing height to the highest or second-highest level (31/2 to 4 inches). Pay special attention to narrow strips between paved areas that tend to dry out quickly and are most vulnerable to chinch bug infestations.
Central, East, North, and South
- Plant--Add transplants of perennials such as garden mums, aromatic asters (Aster oblongifolius), Mexican mint marigolds (Tagetes lucida), and Mexican bush sages (Salvia leucantha) now for a show of color in your flowerbeds this fall.
- Mulch--Replenish mulches to sustain landscape plantings through the late-summer months. Shrub borders should have 3 to 4 inches of commercial mulch or recycled leaves. Old or spoiled hay makes an excellent mulch when available. Shrubs and specimen plants, such as roses or salvias, need extra care and occasional deep watering during times of extreme heat and drought.
Central, West, and South
- Roses--Everblooming shrub roses benefit from a light pruning, fertilizing, and mulching at this time. Start by removing any weak or dead wood, and then shorten the entire plant by about one-third. Apply slow-release fertilizer, add mulch, and water well to encourage abundant flowering as the weather begins to cool.
Central, West, and South
- Vegetables--Continue to pick tomatoes, squash, okra, eggplant, and peppers just as they mature. This will encourage them to continue producing into the fall months. Water deeply every three to five days, and mulch well. There is time to set out transplants of new plantings of Southern peas, okra, squash, and cucumbers.