August in the Garden
By Lisa Grugin
We are now officially in the “Dog Days.” Did you ever wonder where that term came from? It doesn’t have anything to do with our pets! In ancient Greece and Rome, the Dog Days were believed to be “a time of drought, bad luck, and unrest, when dogs and men alike would be driven mad by the extreme heat.” I got that from The Farmers Almanac. Now we use the term mostly about the time of summer’s peak temperatures and humidity.
That was a long and meandering way of saying it is pretty miserable outside. It is hard to make yourself go out and water or weed or deadhead when the air is swampy and the mosquitoes are trying to suck out every drop of your blood. I’m sorry, but your plants need help. The rain has been erratic, fungus is everywhere, and insects have arrived en masse. If you don’t help your plants get through this stage, be prepared to replace them this fall.
Here are the things you need to do:
• Monitor your yard. 0Do a walk around at least once a week to see what is going on. It is much easier to treat problems when you catch them early. This is also a great time to evaluate what has happened in your yard this year so far. What has done well? What hasn’t? What needs to be moved, removed, cut back, fertilized, treated, or composted? Do you need to add or subtract? It may be too hot for the actual work, but you can dream!
• Can you plant? Yep. It just requires a little more effort. We still have plenty of beautiful annuals, perennials, trees, and shrubs. Pull up ugly annuals and replace them with fresh color. Add perennials to sunny or shady locations. Trees and shrubs can also be planted but will take a little more care. That means you will have to water the daylights out of them.
• Since I mentioned water, let’s talk about that. You may believe you are getting plenty of rain, but sometimes it isn’t as much as you think. If you don’t have a rain gauge, you can use plants (like hydrangeas, forsythia, weigela) that droop when they are thirsty to tell you when things are dry. By the time hollies, azaleas, and other evergreens tell you they are dry, it is usually too late. Please remember sprinklers are good for grass and flowers but are NOT adequate for trees and shrubs. Those need a drip system or hand watering.
• Powdery mildew, rust, black spot, and shothole disease are making an appearance everywhere. Your first round of defense is removing infected leaves and making sure they do not remain on the ground. Pruning (carefully) to improve air circulation will help with airborne diseases, and spraying with a fungicide will kill fungal spores. I am also seeing many plants succumbing to root rot. Root diseases are much harder to treat, and it usually involves removing mulch and applying a systemic product. Call us, stop by, email us, or contact us on Facebook if you have questions.
• Check for bugs, but make sure you have bad guys before you start spraying. Overtreatment is causing two serious problems: The “bad” bugs are becoming resistant to the chemicals, and “good” bugs like bees are getting wiped out. Don’t add to the problem.
• Summer is not the time to do major pruning of shrubs and trees. It is simply too stressful. As I mentioned above, you can take off wonky or diseased branches and do some minor shaping, but save the bigger jobs until the plants are dormant. If someone is doing surgery on you, wouldn’t you rather be asleep?
• Cut back perennials and annuals that have gotten leggy. Many will have new growth at the base, so be careful not to cut that off.
• Keep deadheading those annuals! Some of them could use a haircut and a good shot of fertilizer. Many will perk back up as the temperatures cool, so don’t give up. One the other hand, don’t be afraid to compost them and replace them with new plants.
• Did you plant vegetables? How did they do? If you didn’t enjoy the success you had hoped for, come in and talk to us and let’s see if we can figure out what went wrong. Sometimes the solution is very simple, like plant rotation or installing drip irrigation. If you have an overabundance, consider donating some to a food pantry.
• Isn’t it amazing how fast the weeds can take over? Keep pulling and spraying them, and don’t forget to apply a pre-emergent. There are some really nasty plants like Smilax (an awful, thorny vine that can have roots 20 feet long) that are really difficult to eradicate, so don’t give up!
• The fall bird migration will start soon. Keep your bird feeders and birdbaths clean and full so visiting birds can have an Airbnb at your house!
Our fall merchandise has started arriving, so stop in and see what is new!
Meadow View Greenhouses & Garden Center
9885 Highway 11E
Lenoir City, TN 37772