Ahhh, August, at times referred to as the “dog days” of summer due to the heat and humidity, which probably contributes to lethargy and just plain no energy. Add to this, the forced confinement of stay-at-home orders during the pandemic making us feel out of sorts. This summer has been most unusual due to the virus having restricted our social and community activities. However, gardening has saved the day for me since I can be out of doors, planting, pruning and fertilizing without the use of a mask. Outdoors with plenty of fresh air and sunshine, we can soak in vital vitamin D and create beauty. Truly this is one hobby that does not need a team or partners to enjoy. As I wrote in a recent article, gardening contributes to our well being in both the mind and the soul.
Across the board, there are some miscellaneous tasks that need to be done for healthier and happier plants. Blackberries and raspberries flourish when we cut back dead canes, and then fertilize. Layering can propagate woody-stemmed plants such as hydrangeas and azaleas. Just pull a low branch to the ground, put a brick or stone on it so it touches the ground, and then keep moist. Within a short time, the stem or branch will spout roots. Then, cut off the branch with the roots, and plant in a pot with good soil. Incidentally, this is not the month to fertilize woody-stemmed shrubs and plants. Lawns should not be cut too short this month, since we do not want the roots to burn due to the heat. If you have St. Augustine or Bermuda grass, apply a pound of nitrogen per 1000 square feet, but skip the fertilizers for centipede or zoysia grass. Just a rule of thumb. Also, when I water my lawn, I let the system run for about 45 minutes once or twice a week, depending on the heat index, in order for the roots to stay well below the surface. Light watering encourages shallow roots, which may be damaged by the heat.
Plants for a great showy fall flower garden.
1. Seeds: Zinnias seeds can be planted several times per season, so if you have a crop that has become leggy, pull them out now and re- seed for the fall and early winter. My favorite variety is Pacific Giant, multi-colored tall plants that are just a work horse in the beds. Cleome seed can be sown now for fall flowers, much like the zinnias. They make wonderful cut flowers, love a sunny location, plus have the added benefit of having very few pests.
2. Perennials, such as coneflower, day lilies, canna lilies, sedums, black-eyed susans, garden phlox, monarda(bee balm), liatris, rudbeckia, hosta, dahlias, iris, pentas, red hot pokers(pokers (kniphofias), roses, all types of salvias, dusty miller, verbenas, and sages.
3. Annuals, such as, vinca, gomphrena, impatiens, marigolds, petunias, begonias, cockscomb and other celosias, ageratum coleus, just to name a few.
Browse the garden centers and nurseries in our area, plus make a trip to Petals from the Past in Jemison, just off the I-65, to purchase any of the above, and you just may find a new variety that wants to make your garden its home.
PLANT OF THE MONTH: GOMPHRENA GLOBOSA
This flower is commonly known as Gomphrena amaranth is actually an edible plant that is a compact annual, growing about 12-24 inches in height.
The common variety color is a bright fuchsia and native to Central America. A tropical annual, gomphrena has the great ability to spread and makes a wonderful filler of the beds. It is heat tolerant, and dead flower heads drop off without the process of deadheading, which saves time. These flowers bloom from spring through frost. There is also a white variety named “Ping Pong”.
After the flowers die, dry the seed and replant next season.