Jan’s online garden hints

Jan’s August Tips

-Help roses and other perennials toughen up for winter by withholding fertilizer for the rest of the garden season.

-If the soil in large outdoor planters dries out enough to pull away from the sides, water slowly and repeatedly, pushing the soil back in place as it absorbs moisture. Set hanging baskets and smaller pots in a tub of warm water until the soil is evenly moist, and then push the soil back into place. If some plants in containers are beginning to look shabby, replace them with osteospermum, chrysanthemum, calendula, diascia or other plants that will look nice well into the fall.

-Prevent fungal disease of large-flowered marigolds by removing blossoms as soon as they fade.

-If a purple coneflower is distorted with light-green leaves and a branching top, immediately pull and discard the plant before leafhoppers spread the disease to healthy plants.

-If the leaves of garden phlox are yellowing and dying, thin each clump, leaving only three to five of the healthiest shoots to improve air circulation.

-Expect the mother hen of your succulent hen and chicks to die after flowering, leaving the chicks to carry on.

-Plant fall-flowering crocus, autumn crocus (Colchicum) and Madonna lily (Lilium candidum) bulbs. Order hardy spring-flowering bulbs for October planting.

-If your perennial garden has too few blooms, plan now to add more August bloomers this fall or next spring. Consider black-eyed Susan, goldenrod, Japanese anemone, plumbago, Russian sage, helenium, and tall sedum.

-Remove any spotted portions of iris leaves. Dig and divide crowded rhizomes. Use a sharp knife to cut the rhizomes. Discard old, woody sections as well as any that show signs of rot or borer damage. In a sunny garden bed that has good drainage, enrich the soil with compost and then replant young, healthy-looking divisions that have five to eight leaves each. Space the rhizomes 15 to 18 inches apart and cover them with no more than an inch of soil.

-Plant dormant crowns of oriental poppies. If you have clumps of poppies that have grown too crowded, dig and divide them now.

-If the leaves of dahlias, marigolds or other garden plants look pale and stippled, spray the leaves with a strong jet of water from the garden hose to thwart spider mites. Repeat every few days as long as the weather stays hot and dry. To control severe spider mite infestations, spray plants with insecticidal soap (widely available wherever garden supplies are sold).

-Use a pair of garden scissors to turn a bedraggled midsummer border into a showpiece. Remove any yellowed or damaged leaves and dead flowers and stalks. Lightly shear straggly-looking alyssum and lobelia plants. Pinch back leggy petunias and snapdragons. If leaves of lady’s mantle or lungwort look ratty, shear the foliage almost to the ground.

-Stake tall gladiolus plants. Cut flower spikes for bouquets as soon as a few of their funnel-shaped blooms open. If some flowers look distorted and plants have browning leaves, remove affected parts and spray plants every three days with insecticidal soap to control thrips.

Vegetables, fruits, herbs

-Plant a fall salad garden by sowing seeds of lettuce, radish and spinach. For gourmet greens to harvest late in the fall, plant seeds of mache, also called lamb’s lettuce or corn salad.

-Clean out any spotted or dying tomato foliage to improve air circulation. Avoid overhead watering.

-Set cans or boards under ripening melons. Harvest watermelons when they have a dull look, a yellowish underside, a dark-colored stem and shriveled tendrils near the melon. Watch muskmelons for the color to change from green to tan or yellow, and harvest as soon as the melons pull from the vine with a gentle tug. For best taste, hope for dry and sunny weather when melons are maturing.

-Plant turnip seeds early this month for a harvest of sweet, tender roots this fall.

-Continue to harvest herbs such as basil, savory, and oregano regularly. Clip off and discard any flower buds that form.

-Store fresh-picked tomatoes on the counter, not in the refrigerator.

-Stay out of the garden whenever the leaves are wet, to avoid transferring diseases to healthy plants.

-Pick corn ears when the silks are brown and dried and the ears are firm and fat. Check frequently, especially in hot weather. If the ears are poorly filled, blame lack of pollination which often results from hot weather or rain during the critical time right after silks appear.

-Pick pears as soon as their color changes from dark to light green and the fruit releases easily with a gentle tug. Store the fruit indoors at about 70 degrees until the it is fully ripe in a week or two.

-Pick peaches as soon as they soften and release easily from the tree.

-After the last of the summer-bearing raspberries is picked, cut all of the bearing canes at ground level. Save the new canes to produce next year’s crop. Expect fall bearers such as Heritage to start ripening this month. Remember to water if the weather is dry, because raspberries are thirsty plants.

-Wait to pick grapes until the stem of each cluster turns brown. If wasps are a problem, bag grape clusters with paper bags. Before harvesting a whole cluster, taste a few grapes to be sure they’re ripe.

-If you have some garden space standing idle, sow seeds of buckwheat for “green manure” to till into the soil later this fall.

Around the yard:

-In dry weather, water this year’s new trees and shrubs regularly.

-If you have an automatic sprinkler system for your lawn, guard against killing your trees and shrubs with too much water. Avoid daily watering and, if Mother Nature delivers an inch or more of rain a week, override the automatic system to skip the watering altogether.

-Refrain from fertilizing cool-season grasses like bluegrass or fescue now because it would only serve to encourage weeds, not grass.

-Where grass is failing under shallow-rooted tees, replace it with a groundcover such as periwinkle (Vinca minor) or barrenwort (Epimedium).

-Enjoy the fragrant blossoms of two unusual trees blooming this month: Japanese pagoda tree (Sophora japonica) and seven-son flower (Heptacodium miconioides).

-Replace seed in birdfeeders often so it won’t mold in hot, humid weather.

-To improve the appearance of butterfly bush, clip off blossoms as they brown.