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“Keep your nose to the grindstone” from the Whistling Gardener

August rains are a mixed blessing. Considering that we normally receive about an inch of rain for the whole month of August and we need to be applying an inch per week it is safe to say that August rains mostly just keep the dust down.
Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville. Photo credit: Sunnyside Nursery.

This weekly column is being reproduced with the permission of Steve Smith, The Whistling Gardener, and owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville.

Blame it on my mother. No matter how well I did something, Mom would always say I could do better (so much for self-esteem and forget about trophies for just showing up, this was a different time). So when I tell you to keep your nose to the grindstone, now you will understand where I am coming from.

Yes, you have worked hard up to this point and you have done a good job, but you can do better. No matter how hard you have worked on your garden I am not giving you any slack this month. Here are a few random thoughts for you to ponder.

August rains are a mixed blessing. Considering that we normally receive about an inch of rain for the whole month of August and we need to be applying an inch per week it is safe to say that August rains mostly just keep the dust down.

Don’t be fooled into thinking the garden is watered. Rain this month will also cause late blight on tomatoes so either figure out a way to cover the plants or spray them with a fungicide to prevent the disease.

Pruning should be high on your list this month too. I just finished tidying up some of my topiaried conifers and evergreen hedges. I only trimmed off a few inches at most but it made a huge difference in their appearance.

Vines will also need to be reined in this month. Despite the fact that I pruned my Wisteria and Akebia last month they need it again but just a little off the sides and top, not a butch please. Save the radical stuff for winter.

Tired of zucchini yet? Replace it with a new planting of leaf crops like lettuce and spinach, Swiss chard, onions, garlic, radishes and Cole crops like broccoli. Most of these can be found on our benches now or on the seed racks. Don’t forget to replenish the soil with organic fertilizer and compost before you plant.

If your fruit trees are heavy laden with fruit be sure to prop up the branches with some poles. You can still thin your fruit and improve the quality of what’s left. While you are fiddling around with your fruit trees be sure and remove all those water sprouts now instead of waiting until this winter. Head back wild branches as well to encourage branching.

While I am not a fan of overusing herbicides, the hot summer weather is a perfect time for spot spraying clover, dandelions and other broad leaf weeds in the lawn before they take over entirely.

Target the pest and save the rest. In other words, don’t use those nasty weed and feed products that broadcast herbicides over the entire lawn.

And after you have killed the weeds you will need to fertilize the lawn to help it fill in the void left by the weeds. Late August is when lawns start to come alive again and they could use some food to help them along.

Believe it or not, it’s not too early to be thinking about planting tulips, daffodils, crocus and other spring blooming bulbs. They will be arriving late this month in the garden center and you should shop early for the best selection.

Last but not least, if you are looking for some fun sign up for our leaf casting class this Saturday or Sunday at 10am and take home a unique creation. Call to reserve a spot because space is very limited.

Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached online at info@sunnysidenursery.net.

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