Already, shadows are lengthening as daylight hours wane. Early fears of a summer drought vanished when an aggressive monsoon hit, and our plants responded to that moisture as if they were racehorses …
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Already, shadows are lengthening as daylight hours wane. Early fears of a summer drought vanished when an aggressive monsoon hit, and our plants responded to that moisture as if they were racehorses out of the starting gate.
Lushness is now the word for both flower and vegetable beds. Don’t let your jungle overtake your landscape. Judicious deadheading and editing out of weaker, overgrown or even less attractive plants will immediately perk things up for the weeks ahead. Since petunias, particularly, have grown leggy by now, you can gain new full growth and blossoms by cutting several of the plants down to three or four inches.
It’s no coincidence that county and state fairs are held in August. In an earlier rural society these fairs were opportunities for folks to proudly display their best from the growing season, whether it be jelly from one’s own plums, the largest tomato, most delectable apple pie or sweetest corn.
The coveted blue ribbon was added incentive for entering and earning bragging rights among one’s neighbors. This year I’m offering my own very large blue ribbon (you each get a thread) for all the homeowners who have transformed lackluster, water-hogging green lawns into places of enduring interest and beauty.
The vibrant creativity and originality many of you display in your landscapes continue this area’s tradition of being the best place in the city to live. (Let’s hear it for our side!) Of added interest are the increasing numbers of you who are transforming hell strips and converting front lawns – even vacant lots – into vegetable plots, thus reviving a practice popular with the Victory Gardens of World War II. After all, we can’t eat grass, but fresh peas, string beans and tomatoes provide taste treats and nutrition.
Q. I always hate it when my lettuce and spinach go to seed and I have to buy those veggies at the store again. Is there a way to have my own leafy veggies into the fall?
A. Absolutely. Do successive sowing starting in late July or early August, but this time sow the seeds in a cool, shady area, even using a container if necessary. Do this for fresh crops of spinach, lettuce, arugula, radishes and even tender young leaves of kale and collards. In addition, a September planting will provide you with fresh produce in the very early spring even before you start your regular seeding.
Q. My daughter, who lives at 8,000 feet has been trying to grow bachelor buttons for three years, first from seeds in commercial packages and then from seeds from my wild plants. I know they survive the cold and any kind of soil, so what’s the problem?
A. I’ve encountered this problem before and I think the short growing season is the challenge. Her season isn’t long enough for the plants to bloom and produce seed for next year. If you still have seeds from your plants, collect them and have your daughter sow them now and see if that gives them a head start. Otherwise, she’ll just have to consider bachelor buttons as single-season annuals.
A wiser suggestion would be for her to closely view natural wildflowers at her altitude and duplicate what nature has already provided instead of re-creating a different landscape.
Q. Someone once told me to prune my tomato plants, but how and where? Is it too late in the season?
A. Given the right conditions, tomato plants will happily sprawl to shrub size, expending all energies on growth rather than fruit production. Pinching off smaller secondary shoots will focus the plant’s energy on production and also open the plant to better air circulation and sun exposure. In addition, pinching off blooming shoots that can’t possibly produce mature fruit in early fall will produce larger tomatoes. Start “grooming” your plants now.
Q. I have successfully grown geraniums in containers for several years. This year most of them wilted and died and the stems had turned black and mushy. I couldn’t see any insects on the plants.
A. Your geraniums rotted from the excess moisture. Geraniums don’t like wet feet, and our aggressive daily deluges created a constant muddy condition. Insufficient drainage in your containers possibly also contributed to the problem. This was all out of your control. Concentrate on a drier year next summer.
August normally is a time exclusively for harvest. This year we’ll also have to be diligent about weed control if we don’t want to be totally overwhelmed later.
Don’t waste your excess produce. SHARE it. If you lack needy friends and neighbors, offer it to Project Angel Heart for their meal services.
Congratulations to all of you with fantastic landscapes on Clarkson, Emerson, Pearl, Pennsylvania, Monroe, Madison, etc. Give yourselves hearty back pats.
To an awesome – and drier – August.
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