August can be a surprisingly busy month in the garden. Here are five timely chores, if attended to this month, that will improve the look and health of your plants:
Planting: This is on my list every month, but August is especially important because if you plant now your new little darlings will get settled in before winter and take off like a rocket come spring. Garden centers have a 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 with water and letting it seep into the 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 up to four times. This technique will give you success every time.
Pruning: There is always something in the garden that needs to be cut back or trimmed, just to keep things looking tidy. Bloomed out perennials should be cut to their crowns so they can build strength for next season. Tired annuals can sometimes be resurrected if trimmed and fertilized. Wisteria benefits from cutting those long vining limbs halfway back to their bases to encourage more flowers in spring. Fruit trees will enjoy removal of water sprouts and general thinning to let in the light to the developing fruit. August is a great month for selective pruning, just don’t hack 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 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: Since we don’t get much rain this time of year we need to supply water via our hoses. Even if you let your lawn go dormant, watering it once this month will go a long way to waking it up in September. If you have an arborvitae hedge, put a soaker hose underneath and run it twice this month for several days at a time until you have watered the ground six- to 12-inches deep. With our longer and hotter summers, watering in August is becoming more important.
Playing: Take time to play, party and generally enjoy the fruits of your labor. Gardens feed the body and the soul, and August is a good time to reap what you have sown. Pick some fruit and flowers, run through the sprinklers, barbecue some yummy meats or veggies, and dream about what you are going to change or improve next year. We all know a garden in never finished.
Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org