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Landscaping - August Gardening Tips from Pikes
Date Posted: Aug 01, 2005
Welcome to the "dog days" of summer, so called because the Dog Star (Sirius) rises and sets with the sun at this time of year. In the southeast, "dog days" are usually associated with the hottest, muggiest days of the summer season. Because of the intense heat and humidity, most major landscaping projects are usually postponed until the fall season arrives. Not only are the temperatures milder, but the fall season is actually the best time of the year for planting. Why? From mid-September until mid-December, air temperatures cool down and daylight hours shorten. When this happens, plant growth above the ground slows down or stops altogether. Although the air is cooler, soil temperatures remain warm for a time allowing plants to transfer their energies from top growth to root development. By the following spring, your plants should have a healthy, vigorous root system that is able to support the plant with the water and nutrients it requires.
  • Off with their (seed) heads! Weeds are notorious for producing massive amounts of seeds. Mowing your lawn on a regular basis prevents weeds from developing seed heads. As a result, fewer seeds means fewer weeds.
  • Don't let your annuals "go to seed". Deadhead or remove faded flowers on most annuals to prevent seed formation. Seed formation is often the last phase of an annual's life cycle. Interrupting seed production prolongs the life of the annual and encourages more blooms.
  • Water lawns and plants as early as possible to discourage the development of fungi and mildews. In planting areas, water the soil, not the plants. Avoid getting water on the leaves.
  • Moisten and stir compost piles regularly to speed the decomposition process and prevent flies from breeding in the composting matter.
  • Check annuals daily to make sure they are getting enough water. Plants in containers and hanging baskets tend to dry out more quickly than those planted in the ground.
  • Cut down the mosquito population by removing all standing water from saucers under pots outdoors. Even bird baths can breed mosquitoes, so discard the old and add fresh water at least once a week.
  • Remove spent vegetable plants and weeds in your summer garden. They can harbor insects and disease organisms. Clean up the planting area to prepare for your fall garden. Leafy vegetable plants such as broccoli, cabbage, collards and kale will soon be available for fall planting.
  • Revitalize your rose bushes. Black Spot and summer's heat can take a toll on roses. Remove any dead or diseased leaves and stems, then lightly fertilize with a plant food formulated for roses. At this time of year, I would apply the fertilizer at half the recommended rate. You want to fortify the bush but you do not want to encourage a lot of new growth. When temperatures begin to cool, roses will start to bloom again for their "last hurrah" of the growing season.
  • Wilting plants? Wilting and curling leaves don't look pretty but they are not necessarily bad things. During the hottest part of the day, wilting or curling leaves can occur as a protective mechanism. For example, certain Japanese maple leaves curl up to avoid the harsh rays of the afternoon sun. Wilting leaves occur because the roots can not keep up with the water demands of the leaves. Usually this means that the roots don't have enough water, but that is not always the case. Prolonged intense heat and sunlight can cause some plants to wilt. This is especially noticeable on impatiens. However, if the planting area was consistently watered, the plants will usually perk up when the sun sets.
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