This weekly column is being reproduced with the permission of Steve Smith, The Whistling Gardener, and owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville.
This is the time of year that separates the “yardeners” from the “gardeners." “Yardeners” will let their lawns go brown and spend their summer recreating in some other way than gardening. "Gardeners" on the other hand will continue to labor in the constant pursuit of perfection.
Here are some tips to help out those of us that suffer from this compulsive disorder we call gardening.
Water and fertilize: the more we water the more we need to fertilize and Lord knows we have had to do plenty of watering so far this year. I loaded up my beds with organic fertilizer this spring (I always double the application rate) and they are still looking pretty good but for quick results Miracle Gro Garden Pro All Purpose and Bloom formulas twice a week are hard to beat.
Mulch: it never hurts to spread a little compost around the garden to hold in moisture, keep down weeds and add some microorganisms to the soil profile. Do some every month and it won’t break the bank or the back.
Plant: By now you all should know my mantra on planting. You can do it year ‘round.
Pruning: Call it “editing” if you like but this is an excellent time to thin plants out and shape them, remove suckers and water spouts and generally fine tune the garden. Just like a haircut, every 4-6 weeks we need to take a little off the sides and on top (okay, some of us don’t have a lot on top any more to trim but you get the idea.) And remember to stake up taller perennials now before they flop.
Roses: Still lots of blooms to come on roses if we keep dead heading and fertilize. It’s mildew season (any time we have dew in the morning we can have mildew as well) and it’s a whole lot easier to prevent than it is to get rid of once you have it so spray now before you see the disease. You can also use one of the new drenches that contain a systemic fungicide that you pour under the base of the rose. This works fine if you have no diseases but if you already have mildew or black spot then you should probably go ahead and spray too.
If this all sounds like a total pain then plant varieties that are disease resistant like the Floral Carpet and Drift series.
Bugs and Diseases: the truth is that most bugs are just a nuisance and not terminally detrimental to our plants. They also are a good food source for the birds so go lightly on the pesticides and learn to live with a less than perfect plant. Mother Nature will love you for it. Diseases can be a bit more problematic so check with us if you think you have issues.
Lawns: August is usually a slow month for lawns. By the end of the month the nights will be cooling down and lawns will be kicking into gear again. That will be the signal to reseed, aerate, dethatch or generally overhaul or plant a new lawn. More on that later in the month.
Veggies, herbs and fruits: be sure and harvest on a regular basis and if you have too much produce take it to your local food bank. Thin out the tomatoes so they don’t continue to set fruit that won’t have time to ripen. Transplants will start to show up again in the garden center later this month but in the mean time you can continue to sow seeds of lettuce and carrots and beets and onions.
Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached online at firstname.lastname@example.org