August a good time to take stock
by Ronella Stagner, Gardening Columnist
Aug 19, 2009 | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
August, with all the heat and a few storms that take down some cherished trees, is the time to take stock of all we have done this season, good and bad. It’s also time to can and preserve in some way all the produce from your vegetable garden. It’s a good time to record what you have learned this season so you won’t make the same mistakes next season.

The smart, organized gardener has a notebook in which to record all those mistakes along with some facts for reference next year. Some important facts are the kind of tomato plants that withstood this past spring and early summer weather, those annuals that made your perennial beds prettier, the perennials that just seem to be much work for little bloom, etc. Any three ring notebook and lined notebook paper will get you started and now is the time. I like to also keep articles from flower magazines and newspapers about the perennials and shrubs that I either grow now or plan for the future. Also you may want to keep pictures and facts you find in seed catalogs. In other words, make yourself a reference book so that you won’t be going through a dozen books looking for facts and pictures. You will find that this is the most valuable reference book in your shelf. To give you an idea how you will use this notebook, I found and kept an article about how to prune crape myrtles to look like the ones in the deep south and the following year, I pruned all mine to keep the limbs off the ground and to keep down mildew and also I like the way they look. This can be an ongoing project the year around.

If you haven’t already done so, clip off the dried heads of last spring’s lilac blooms. Cut seed heads of all annuals if you want them to continue to bloom. Don’t let them go to seed.

Deciduous trees that need only a little pruning may have that done now. It is easier to gauge such trimming while the foliage is on than after it has fallen in the fall. Large limbs, of course, should not be removed until the sap has stopped circulating through the branches in late fall.

Any time I read anything about the use of Epsom salts, I sit up and take notice. This is a whole new idea for me even though I have no fish pond. An article related to cleaning the outside goldfish ponds said that while the fish are out of the pond in a tub, add two tablespoons of Epsom salts to the tub for a long soak for the fish. My father must have had stock in Epsom salts because when I was little, I had to undergo treatment of the salts and also castor oil and cod liver oil. I remember being so happy when Mama told him, “That’s the last time I will ever let you give her castor oil”. I finally got big enough to say no to Epsom salts.

Have you ever wondered why August is the month when mildew attacks lilacs, roses, honeysuckle, zinnias, hollyhocks, phlox and others? It arrives in August because it often overwinters in the Deep South, and the spores are blown north every spring and summer. To help keep it down, always water the soil rather than leaves. Also use a good fungicide, one containing sulfur, and keep it up every one to two weeks. It can’t help what has already happened but can protect what’s left.

A reader recently called me to ask what that beautiful clump of pink flowers was. I knew immediately because my neighbor had a big patch of them in bloom. I finally gave away all of mine but enjoy the neighbor’s. They are called by many names such as surprise lily, magic lily, or naked lady. Actually it’s an amaryllis that comes up as if by magic from bulbs that should be planted in fall. In spring it has heavy leaves much like daffodils only larger and those leaves eventually wither and disappear and you forget about them. Suddenly they revive in August with the stalk and pink flowers. They do well in full sun or partial shade. They are very hardy and produce at a rapid pace. The bulbs are very large and should be planted about five inches deep and a few inches apart. After they finish blooming, cut off the stalk with scissors and fertilize.

It’s not too late to plant a fall garden of bush beans, carrots and beets and if can find them, transplants of cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. It’s too early for the other seeds such as mustard greens and turnips. Wait until late August or early September.

It’s way, way too early to plant fall bulbs but just the right time to sit back and look through your catalogs to plan for the ordering of daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, crocus and all the other bulbs you wished this spring that you had planted last fall.

(You can reach me at 270-522-3632 or Ronella Stagner, 137 Main St., Cadiz, KY 42211.)
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