A GROWING CONCERN: Summer chores for a rosy fall outlook

WOW! MONDAY IS already the beginning of August and this past week, the “dog days” of summer visited us here on the Peninsula. With that said, the long, warm and sunny days of summer are upon us.

Here is your to-do list for August.

1. Noxious weeds.

This is the time of year when weeds are going to seed — millions and millions of seeds. Find those plants and eradicate them, or at the very least, remove the flowerhead in order to stop reproduction. Taking care of all weeds now means a lot more time for other jobs later in the year.

2. Dead head and pinch your flowers.

All plants’ main purpose is to reproduce. As the days get shorter, and the old flowerheads mound up, your flowers will start to die off in order to finish seed production.

Now is the time to go out and remove all old flowers. Also pinch back a set or two of leaves on geraniums, marigolds and other flowers for a drop dead gorgeous September or October plant. It’s now or never!

3. Summer pruning.

This is another now or never garden chore. Go outside and prune any errant or stringy branches, shear your hedges and thin out any overgrown plants. Pruning too late will set up new, weak, immature growth that’s easily damaged by fall weather and frost.

4. Roses.

Many of your roses may be starting to look very poor now, full of black spot and rust, and are gangly and tall.

Cut them back severely — 40 percent or more — and strip away all damaged and diseased leaves —even if this means all of them.

Then fertilize well, lightly cultivate, add new mulch and watch as they become the most beautiful roses you have ever had in September and October.

5. Watering.

It has been very dry and hot, so many of your large trees and shrubs are dry.

Deep water all of your fruit trees before they start to abort their fruit. Thoroughly soak any bush or tree planted within the last year.

Make sure your flower baskets are watered twice a day when temperatures exceed 75 to 80 degrees and always double-water your fuchsia baskets.

August is the month to soak so your plant will be alive next year.

6. The lawn.

With the current hot, dry temperatures, now is the time to heed my advice and raise the mower to the highest setting.

Give that butchered lawn a break. Let it shade itself and block the ever so drying wind.

Remember, if you must water the lawn, and you don’t have to (it goes brown and dormant naturally in its own cycle), water it deeply — an inch or so — then wait before repeating.

A dormant lawn is one that does not have to be mowed or weed whacked. Take August off!

7. Fertilize.

August is the month of bone meal to get the proper nutrients into the soil for fall root production. Absolutely, positively bone meal all bulbs, tubers, corm rhizomes and fleshy-type plants now.

Spread it on your perennial gardens around the trees, bushes and shrubs.

Even a late-August feed to your lawn will be greatly appreciated. Bone meal is the miracle drug of the spring bulb world, and big bags are dirt cheap at farm and feed stores.

Get some today.

8. Sow seed.

The veggie garden is ready for a rebirth as days lengthen and dew becomes heavy.

Sow new rows of spinach, beans, beets, radishes, Swiss chard and other leafy greens.

Fall vegetables are so incredibly sweet, so start some today.

9. Cultivate and till.

If you have not broken up the surface of your soil lately, now is more crucial than ever.

Soil makes a crust that repels water and greatly impedes the transfer of poisonous gases out of the soil and beneficial gases from the atmosphere into the soil.

Cultivating is the oldest and most time-honored method of good soil management. When finished, water well, and for an A+, add some new mulch or compost just on top.

10. Buy plants for replacement.

As summer plants begin to fade, begin replacing those spots with wonderful fall plants such as sedum, mums, kale, cabbage, heather, grasses, pansies, violas, dusty millers, snapdragon and, of course, the obligatory fall foliage plants.

Autumn is a great time for ornamentals, and now is the time to buy and plant them.

11. Buy some more.

Now is also the time to buy and replace any tools, equipment, hoses and the like.

Also, vendors will begin to move items for (gulp) Christmas. If you need any garden items, this is yet another now or never as inventory begins a big shift in items.

12. Take a mini garden vacation.

August is a great month for the garden, so go visit some. The next few weeks are ideal to visit the Master Gardeners demo garden in Port Angeles, see Butchart Gardens in Victoria, visit Seattle or Portland and relish all that is beautiful in the botanical world.

After finishing this list, you need a little break.

But do … stay well all!


Andrew May is a freelance writer and ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email [email protected] (subject line: Andrew May).

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