What to do in the Garden in August

Nut Sedge

Homestead’s own guru Gene Sumi shared these tips for August with the Golden Spades group today.

It’s time for your final application of lawn weedkiller.  And don’t wait too long if you plan to do any seeding next month – because seeding can’t be done immediately after applying weedkillers (lengths of time vary – see below).   Recommended products include:

  • Bonide Weed Beater Ultra.  Wait 2 weeks after applying it to seed your lawn.
  • Bayer Season Long Weed Control for Lawn kills weeds AND contains a weed preventer, so it requires a full 60-day wait before seeding (otherwise, the weedkiller will kill your turfgrass seedlings).

Nut sedge won’t be killed by either of these products.   There’s one Ortho product that does, though it’s hard to find this time in the season (it’s so popular, it sells out).  Fortunately if you don’t have too much nut sedge you can remove it by hand, without even using a tool.  Just pull.

Lawn Pest Control

Japanese beetle grub

Lawn fungi are in full swing during August and they’re a major cause of lawn death, second only to lack of water.  True, you should have put down a fungicide earlier in the summer to nip this problem in the bud – in late May or early June – but applying a fungicide now will still help.  Always use a fungicide that’s specifically formulated for lawn, and there’s a good selection of effective products to choose from, both organic and synthetic.

Another big lawn pest is the dreaded Japanese beetle grub but August IS the perfect time to treat them.  By about mid-August they’ll have all emerged from the eggs they laid in July, so late August through September is the time to apply Grub-Ex or any product containing the active ingredient Dylox.  This will kill the grubs that would have emerged to eat your lawn next April (at which point it would be too late to do anything about them).  Just remember to water well after spraying the product onto your lawn because the grubs are a few inches down and the product must reach them.

A tip for next year: Of course, it isn’t just lawns that are attacked by fungi – we’ve all seen powdery mildew on peonies, lilacs, zinnias and asters, and black spot on roses.  There’s an inexpensive home remedy that works really well to prevent fungal diseases, but they don’t work on fungal disease that’s already present, so don’t bother using it now.  But here’s the tip: starting in May, spray fungi-vulnerable plants with a mixture of 1 Tablespoon baking soda and 1 Teaspoon of any horticultural oil mixed in one gallon of water.  Then repeat monthly.   It really works.

All-Purpose Pick-Me-Up

In answer to questions about various plant problems Gene suggests trying Superthrive, which is made up of hormones and vitamins.  He’s used it for decades now and is amazed at how often it helps.  He keeps it in his pocket and adds a half cap-full to a 2-gallon watering can when he sees plants in trouble, and also when planting anything.   Even if it doesn’t solve a particular plant problem, it can’t hurt.

Continue Watering Lawns and Gardens

Watering in the hot weather continues to be a gardening priority in August.  Water deeply but not too frequently. 

For the lawn, the University of Maryland recommends one each of water per week, but how do you make sure your sprinkler actually produces that?  Put three cans on your lawn at different distances from the sprinkler and check back to see how long it took for all three to have one inch of water in them – that’s how long you need to run the sprinkler.    It’s also important to cut your grass to at least 3 inches high, which helps conserve water.

Bottom line, shallow watering produces shallow rooted turfgrass that’s more vulnerable to drought.  One Golden Spade member said her irrigation company had told her to water her lawn 20-25 minutes every day and that’s exactly wrong!  It not only wastes water, but can lead to root rot.

For other parts of your property – for shrubs, trees, perennials, etc – water deeply to send water down below the root zone.   Having a 2-inch-thick layer of bark mulch on top of the soil helps to keep water in the soil, so let the mulch do its job.  And when you’re checking to see if water is needed, move a bit of the mulch aside and check the soil under it.  If the mulch is dry, watering may not be needed; it’s dry SOIL that you’re on the look-out for.

Fortunately, most shrubs will tell you when they need to be watering – by wilting.  Unfortunately, evergreens don’t give us that helpful warning, so the soil around them needs to be checked.

Container plants need to be watered deeply and more frequently than plants in the ground, but when you water, remember to make sure the soil in the pot really needs it because adding too much water too frequently keeps the soil too wet, which causes root death.  (The sure way to check the amount of moisture in the pot is by the weight of the pot.)

Also, when you water any container plant, continue to add water until it starts draining out of the hole in the bottom.

Time to Start some Cool-Season Vegetable Seeds for Fall Planting

Fall is the best time to grow cool cool-season vegetables – even better than spring because in spring, the seeds need to be started indoors under artificial lights.  In August the temperatures are warm enough to start the seeds outdoors, many sown directly in the soil.  Follow the instructions on the packages.  Gene encouraged us to at least grow some lettuce – everybody loves lettuce!  And it’s easy to grow them even in containers.

Nut sedge photo credit Grub photo creditSprinkler photo credit Lettuce photo credit.

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