Horticultural Hints for August!
Don't forget! August 8th is National
'Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor's Porch Night'!
We all need a gardening tradition that everyone can celebrate;
Reinvigorating annuals and containers.
To keep the annuals blooming and looking at their best until frost, you need to deadhead and keep them pruned into shape. When you water annuals, particularly those in containers, remember to add a weak solution of liquid plant food. The timed released fertilizer you added in spring or early summer has been depleted.
August is when we get to enjoy the bounty of our vegetable gardens. Regular picking is vital to keeping the harvest going as long as possible.
If plants get overlooked (and oversized) they will start concentrating on producing seeds instead of more food for you. When Mother Nature is too generous, share the bounty with your friends and neighbors. And, as you pull spent vegetables, plant lettuce, spinach, arugula and other ‘leaf’ vegetables for a fall harvest. Of course, if one zucchini happens to ‘get away’ from you, you can always use it productively (see article at right).
Put the plant food away until next year! Except for annuals, stop fertilizing. By mid-August you should no longer be fertilizing any perennials, trees or shrubs. This year’s growth on your plants needs time to harden off before the cold weather begins. However, for annuals and plants in containers, keep fertilizing: you want them to bloom until they’re hit by frost.
Invasive Alert! Save Our Monarchs. A very nasty weed is coming into seed now. Swallowwort is a relative of milkweed and often confuses monarch butterflies looking to lay their eggs. While milkweed both feeds and acts as nursery for monarch butterflies, swallowwort is a death trap. Eggs laid on that plant will die shortly after hatching when they feed on its toxic leaves.
Swallowwort was imported into New England in the 19th Century. Today, it is becoming endemic. But it can be controlled. If you see swallowort’s unmistakable seed pods on your property, cut them down, bag them, and send it to the trash. Mark the spot and, next year, start early mowing or cutting it down as it emerges. If you keep at it, it will eventually die. Look for stands of swallowwort as you take walks. If they’re not on your property, strip off the seed pods so they won’t mature.
August is when fungal diseases become a nuisance. The downside of this summer’s humid weather is that you need to be extra vigilant in scouting out fungal diseases. These diseases spread rapidly; propelled from one leaf to another and from one plant to another by insects or during rain or watering. Whether you choose organic or inorganic methods of treating diseases, best results occur when you begin as soon as the problem appears and continue until you are certain it has been eliminated or you have disposed of the plant. If a plant can’t be saved, cut it, bag it and put it in the trash. But, don’t compost it (the disease may survive the process) or throw it into the woods. And, don’t spread the disease – clean your clippers with a disinfectant wipe before using them again.
The drought is getting worse. It’s official now: it is dry, dry, dry. Much of New England is classified as being in a severe drought, with no relief in sight. What does a gardener do? First, respect watering bans. Towns are worried about having enough water for people –to drink, cook, shower and flush. Minimize your home water use any way you can. When you water outside, water early in the day when the air is coolest to lose the least to evaporation. Don’t water at night when water left on plant leaves can promote fungus diseases.