The people's voice of reason

Southern Gardening - Potpourri for August

Recently I had a disaster in my flower garden with a rogue armadillo rooting and digging up some expensive Pentas that I had just planted a few days before. The unfortunate incident occurred at the farm which is in south Dallas County. I have had trouble with these critters before, and I ordered from Amazon a product named Armadillo Scram. It seems like I used up the whole bag in 2 areas about a year ago. So what do they say, out sight, out of mind. After replanting these Pentas which most survived, I ordered more of the repellant. But before it came, my son's dog , Belle, chased down both of these destructive pests and in an instant we had 2 funerals. I now look at Belle as a heroine.

Annuals, perennials and even herbs have escalated in price. For instance, herbs at any of the box stores costs about $5.00 per plant. Ridiculous. So I have begun sowing seed in black plastic 6 packs and when I ran out of them, I used the cardboard egg cartons that I saved after using the eggs. These are great as they do not seem to dry out as quickly as plastic and when the seeds are big enough to plant in the garden, you can plant the carton as is into the soil. The spacing for most seedlings is just about right. Some plants need to be sown directly in the garden without transplanting from the seed tray. These would include: zinnias, cleome, and cosmos. These can be sown at any time from April through late fall. We in zone 8 can have, for example, 3 crops of these wonderful tall showy annuals.

This year I have had great luck wintering over Dragon Wing Begonias, and geraniums. Around the end of March, I cut off any dead stems and leaves from the plants and put them into large outdoor pots, fertilize, and water them in. Do not be discouraged as they will most probably look a little rough. Within a couple of weeks they will put on new growth and thrive. Now at the end of July or the first of August, they will have gotten so large, it will be necessary to cut them back by a third. If I do not cut them back, within a month they will get leggy and flop over. I admit this task is hard to do because they look so beautiful, full of blooms and so vibrant. But you must be ruthless if you want an outstanding pot garden for fall. During the summer months I fertilize the geraniums at least 3 times per month, and usually feed the begonias a liquid fertilizer about one time per month.

Some people still have not learned that to prune flowering shrubs such as camelias, azaleas, and forsythia now, will assure that these bushes will have no blooms next spring. Someone asked me why their indica azaleas were spotty bloomers for years, and then I found out their annual ritual of pruning all shrubs late summer was the reason why. One can prune these flowering shrubs as much as you desire up to 6 weeks after their spring bloom.

Here is another tidbit I have learned over the years which helps with increased indeterminate tomato production. Of course plenty of fertilizer, periodically pruning up the plants from the bottom to let in more light. The difference between determinate and indeterminate tomatoes can be summed up by saying that determinate plants produce all at once and the indeterminate plants bloom and produce until frost.

Happy Gardening!


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