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Potpourri for August

Southern Gardening

The dog days of summer are upon us and for the most part, the flowers we have been tending should now be mature and in full bloom. If we have been weeding all along, we should not have too much to do in this area. For instance, most of my beds are sunny with masses of tall zinnia. These Pacific Giants, thankfully, have shaded out most of the weeds. However, in another area, I lost a stand of phlox due to over watering and must go to work weeding. The area though is ideal to apply Round-up and I do so very very carefully. With black garbage bags and masking tape, I form barriers to keep any of the glyphosate off the other plants. Do not apply this weed killer if there is any breeze at all or if it will be raining within 4 hours. Also for your safety, wear safety goggles, gloves and long pants. Within 5 or 6 days, the weeds will turn yellow and about a week later, you can turn the soil over and replant. I have found that Pintas can be planted this time of year with success and look great in large clumps of 5 or 6. If you want to sow seed for fall bloom, cleome and zinnias can be started now in the flower beds and do well. Just remember to water, and do not fertilize until the plants are about 2 inches tall. But you can apply a light liquid fertilizer after they germinate. I would half the dilution rate due to the heat.

To encourage extra blooms, I tend to dead head the spent blooms. I try to make this an ongoing process along with fertilizing within 6 week intervals. Although more expensive, time release fertilizer can save money in the long run since it lasts from 3-4 months in the summer.

Pruning back flowers is another task that promotes fall bloom, and also contributes to better stability of the plants which tend to get tall and leggy. Zinnias should be cut back by half or removed for resowing. Many times I hate to shear back all those beautiful blooms, but the alternative would be plants that flop over on the ground. By pruning and then fertilizing, expect lots of new leaf growth from the bottom of the stalks, plus more flowers. Coleus, begonias, and dusty miller are other plants benefiting from a "hair cut".

Sometimes there are flowers we cannot obtain on the open market. I have found cloning to be a great alternative, especially if there is an area in the beds of one variety and we need to fill in. I have a bed of Bellingrath Coleus, that has distinct leaf coloring endured some deaths caused by a wandering dog. So I pinched back some tops of the existing plants, and rooted them in water. When the seedlings were about 2 inches tall, I planted them in the bed with a top dressing of new soil, and of course, a weak solution of fertilize. Within a few weeks, the bed was back to normal. Flowers that are easy to root are coleus, begonias, plumbago, dusty miller and herbs such as basil. These cuttings will root faster if taken from new growth like the tops and make the cutting at the joint. You will always have some failures, but this is better than having to search through garden centers for a particular plant.


Dahlias are bushy, tuberous perennials which are native to Mexico and named after the 18th century Swedish botanist, Anders Dahl. He had originally declared the flower to be a vegetable since the tubers are edible. It is a member of the Asteraceae family of plants which includes daisies, zinnias, chrysanthemums, and unflowers. They are what is know as an old-fashioned flower such as what our grandmothers would grow in their gardens. They are easy to grow and make great cut flowers. Also did you know that 2019 is the year of the Dahlia? The varieties come in a rainbow of colors: shades of red, pink, yellow, orange, purple, white and on and on it goes. If the temperatures get below 20 degrees, the tubers may have to be dug up and saved for the next year. The hardiness zones for dahlias are zone 8 through zone 11. We are in zone 8, so probably safe to leave in the ground, They like sun to partial shade, and moderate water.



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