This weekly column is being reproduced with the permission of Steve Smith, The Whistling Gardener, and owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville.
August can be a surprisingly busy month in the garden. There are timely chores, if attended to this month, that will improve the look and health of our plants. Here they are for your reading pleasure…
Planting: This is on my list every month of the year, but August is especially important because if you plant now (with proper watering of course) your new little darlings will get settled in before winter and take off like a rocket come spring. Believe it or not, garden centers have a pretty good selection of shrubs, trees and especially perennials, even in the heat of summer. It is perfectly safe to plant, provided you “pre-soak” the hole by filling it up with water and letting it seep into the surrounding soil. After you have the plant and half of the dirt back in the hole, add a bit more water. Finally, add the rest of the soil, form a watering well (think of a moat) and fill it up with an inch of water three or four times. This technique will give you success every time, guaranteed.
Pruning: There is always something in the garden that needs to be cut back or trimmed up, just to keep things looking tidy and balanced. Bloomed out perennials should be cut down to their crowns so they can build strength for the next season. Tired annuals can sometimes be resurrected if trimmed and fertilized. Wisteria benefits from cutting those long vining limbs half-way back to their bases to encourage more flowers in spring. Fruit trees will enjoy a removal of water sprouts (sometimes called suckers) and general thinning to let in the light to the developing fruit. August is a great month for selective pruning, just don’t hack things back too hard.
Propagating: If you want more of something in your garden, this is a good month to take cuttings from woody shrubs - like hydrangeas or rhodies - all you need is some Root Tone, perlite, and a container that you can put a plastic bag over to keep the humidity up. You can also divide ground covers - like Ajuga or Creeping Jenny or split Bearded Iris or day lilies. There is nothing quite as magical as creating a new plant.
Precipitating: Okay, this is a bit of a stretch, but I needed a “P” word… Obviously we don’t get much precipitation from the clouds this time of year, so we need to supply it via our hoses. Watering is so critical in August. Even if you let your lawn go dormant, watering it once this month will go a long way to waking it up in September when hopefully some rain comes back into the forecast. If you have an arborvitae hedge, put a soaker hose underneath it and run it once or twice this month for several days at a time until you have watered the ground six to twelve inches deep. With our longer and hotter summers, watering in August is becoming more and more important.
Playing: Finally, after all the hard work you have done in your garden, take some time to play, party and generally enjoy the fruits of your labor. Gardens feed the body and the soul as well, and August is a good time to reap what you have sown. Pick some fruit and flowers, run through the sprinklers, barbeque some yummy meats or veggies and dream about what you are going to change or improve next year. We all know a garden is never finished!
Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and you can send your gardening questions to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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