A view of Saltery Bay on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia.
Garden Chores for August
In This Issue
I’ve always enjoyed looking at all the birds that visit the bird feeders located outside our living room picture window. There are so many different types from blue jays, black-capped chickadees, juncos and some I don’t know the names of. Ornithology is not my forte.
Although it has been a pleasure watching them interact with each other, sadly we are no longer feeding our fine feathered friends, much to their chagrin and obvious disappointment.
It's all because of the Avian Flu. The BCSPCA made a public request to remove all feeders to stop the spread of this highly contagious disease. It affects all birds including eagles, chickens, chickadees and ravens.
I felt guilty taking them them down when I saw their sad little feathered faces. They hung their heads at first, but then they became emboldened led by one self-righteous chickadee who wouldn’t face reality. There’s always one bird with its head in the sand. Finally, they gave up and threw down their wee ‘Feed the birds!’ placards, which had surprisingly good cursive writing especially for a bird. Sorry, I digress.
Studies found that the common vector of Avian flu are bird feeders and bird baths. Because of this, the BCSPCA are asking people to not feed the birds during the summer months. Gardens will provide them with flower nectar, seeds and fruits so they won’t go hungry.
Winter is a different story all together. The BCSPCA recommends putting bird feeders out from October to March to help them survive the tough conditions.
When it comes to feeding hummingbirds during the summer, it's recommended not to feed them as nectar rich flowers abound. Hummingbird feeders pose a lower risk of contamination because only hummingbirds visit them. That doesn’t mean they are immune from infections. Nectar quickly becomes mouldy in the heat of the summer, but they are needed during the winter to feed overwintering hummingbirds.
Although the birds don’t understand why I am no longer feeding them now, I'm sure all will be forgiven when I put out the feeders in October.
In the meantime, I still get a little nervous, whenever I go outside. Where's a phone booth to duck into when you need one? Drats!
For more information on Avian flu and feeding birdies, please check out the SPCA for more information.
Enjoy your summer garden and all the pretty birdies.
August PLANT COMBO
Purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea), red geraniums (Pelargonium sp.) and chartreuse sweet potato vines (Ipomoea batatas) cascade down a tiered retaining wall. These plants are thriving in this hot, sunny and dry location. The coneflower is a perennial so it will return next year, however the geraniums and sweet potato vines are annuals so they will not survive the winter. It is a temporary but very pleasing combo.
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STAGE 1 LAWN WATERING ALLOWED:
Even-numbered addresses on Saturdays
Odd-numbered addresses on Sundays
Automatic watering: 5 am – 7 am
Manual watering: 6 am – 9 am
Watering trees, shrubs and flowers is permitted any day from 5 am to 9 am if using a sprinkler, or any time if hand watering or using drip irrigation. All hoses must have an automatic shut-off device.
Edible plants (veggies, fruits and herbs) are exempt from regulations
STAGE 1 LAWN WATERING ALLOWED:
Even-numbered addresses on Mondays
Odd-numbered addresses on Tuesdays
Automatic watering: 4 am – 6 am
Manual watering: 6 am – 9 am
Watering trees, shrubs and flowers is permitted any day from 4 am to 9 am if using a sprinkler, or any time if hand watering or using drip irrigation. All hoses must have an automatic shut-off device.
Edible plants are exempt from regulations
Special permits are available that allow more frequent watering of newly planted lawns. Contact your local municipality for more information. For Metro Vancouver click here.
August Garden Stars
When a tree looks like a pencil stuck in the ground, it's because it has been planted too deeply - the trunk flare has been buried. The trunk flare refers to area where the trunk and roots join. The trunk naturally widens to accommodate the development of roots, which also helps to stabilize the tree. When the trunk flare is buried roots will circle around the buried stem. Eventually the roots will bind the trunk, strangling it. It takes a while to happen, at least five years for the tree to show symptoms of distress.
The first signs are insect damage from caterpillars and other opportunistic insects. Premature leaf drop occurs, especially during times of ecological stress such as high temperatures and drought. Eventually the tips of the branches will die, then the whole branch followed by other branches, then the entire tree.
To liberate a tree that has been planted too deeply, move the excess soil away with a shovel pass the tree's canopy. If you find any roots growing out from the trunk once it's unearthed, cut them off. Give the tree a drink afterwards, and you have my permission to have one too. After all, you just saved your tree!
What to Prune in August
Go Easy: The loss of foliage reduces their food intake, causes them injury and stresses them out. It also exposes the tender foliage that was previously shaded, to the sun, which in turn damages them.
What Not to Do: Avoid performing surgery on suffering plants during times of heat stress and/or drought. Don’t cut back rhododendrons, forsythia and other spring flowering plants as they won’t flower next year. When pruning anything, don’t take too much off; just take a 1/3rd of overall growth.
After Pruning: All plants need some TLC after surgery. Water them well and feed them with fish, kelp or another organic plant food.
Trees: Remove dead, diseased and broken branches first. Remove odd-looking stems grow vertical as these suckers and watersprouts will take over the tree. Remove thin, weak branches, ones that grow towards the centre of the tree. Don’t cut the tops off trees as ugly and weak suckers will replace the branches.
Fruit Trees: Remove suckers, dead, diseased, overly long branches and ones that are in the way etc. Prune back the side branches of apple trees to encourage fruiting spurs. Cut back to only a few buds. In a couple of years, they should revert to buds (fruiting spurs) that produce flowers, and subsequently apples. For more click on Pruning Basics 101.
Grapes: Prune back all leafy side shoots back to fruit clusters. For more on pruning grapes click here.
Wisterias: Cut back each side branch to a 2 to 4 buds (nodes). This will also increase the number of flowers as the remaining buds should revert to fruiting spurs in a couple of years.
Clematis: Clematis don't need pruning to flower. If there's been no flowers, stop pruning and allow the plant to do its thing. To know when to prune your clematis, click on Pruning Clematis.
Hedges: Clip hedges, including cedars (arborvitae, Thuja) so their new growth with be hardened-off before frost arrives.
For more on pruning click here.
Reap What You've Sown
It’s Harvest Time: Once veggie plants start producing, harvest daily to keep them producing. Pick in the morning when plants are dry, or just before you want to cook them for a meal. Freeze or preserve extra produce if you can’t give it away.
Remove anything that’s rotten, diseased, buggy and past it’s prime. It’s not too late to harvest broccoli and kale once they start to flower (bolting) as they are still quite tasty. The flowers are perfect in salads and when sauteed. They are also coveted by bees and other pollinating insects.
When to harvest depends on the crop. Zucchinis are best when they are 6 to 8 inches long, bush and poles beans are sweeter and crisper when they are young. Vine ripened tomatoes still warm from the sun are the most flavourful. The same applies to apples, pears, grapes and other fruits. Cut back herbs regularly to promote new foliage and to deter flowering. For more on specific crops click on Harvesting.
August Lawn Care
In Canada and most of America, our grasses take a break during the summer months because it’s just too darn hot. Our lawns consist of northern grasses (fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, ryegrass). Their ideal temperature for optimum growth ranges from 15.56 to 23.89°C (60 -75°F). Since lawns are somewhat dormant this time of year, maintenance eases.
Mow when necessary, but set the mower to 3 inches if you haven’t already done so. Cut off only a third off the grass blades at a time. This is not the time to cut it short as it exposed the grass crowns to the hot, drying sun. This weakens plants and makes them susceptible to chafers and other grubs. Longer grass prevents the adults from laying their eggs as they can’t lay their eggs.
Water the lawn as it reduces weeds and grubs. A healthy lawn fights back. A sick, drought ridden lawn has no defenses and succumbs to all kinds of nasties. Just one inch a week will keep it alive, but 2 to 3 inches a week would be better - especially during a heat wave.
Click on the following links for more info: Lawn Care Basics - Lawn Maintenance Schedule - Mossy Lawns - Lawn Reno Seed & Sod - Lawn Grub Control - Lawn Alternatives
Despite our cool summer in the Pacific Northwest, tomatoes should be rallying and ripening this month – fingers crossed. August is also when problems occur. One of the key things to keep tomato plants happy and healthy is to provide them with consistent water. Here’s a few tips for a successful tomato crop and to speed up the highly anticipated harvest -yay! For more Tomato Tips click here.
Watering Tomatoes: Water deeply once a week to a depth of 12 to 14 inches. Shallow watering promotes smaller fruit that aren’t as flavorful. Maintain consistent soil moisture to prevent split fruit and blossom end rot. Mulch with straw or torn newspapers to protect the soil. Keep water off the foliage to discourage diseases. Thoroughly water the soil around the plant, especially when it's dry. It’s best to water in the morning, but don’t delay if they are wilting.
Encourage Ripening: To tame and to encourage faster ripening, cut overly long stems back to a leaf, flowers or a tomato. Remove foliage that is shading ripening fruit.
Snip off stem ends just above tomatoes clusters approximately a month before the first frost date in your area. This encourages the remaining fruit to ripen.
Click on Speeding up Tomato Harvest for more.
Tomatoes Pruning & Taming : Don't prune plants if they are wilting due to lack of water. Pinch out suckers before they get too big. Remove any foliage that touches the ground. Keep plants properly staked as they continue to grow. Avoid tying stems so tightly it cuts off their circulation. Cut back overly long stems to a leaf, flower cluster or a tomato. For determinate (shrub) tomatoes, snip of stem ends just above its cage or other support. Water well after pruning. For more on tomato taming click on Taming Tomatoes
Fertilizing Tomatoes: Feed hungry, yellowing plants with a liquid fertilizer such as kelp. To supplement the fertilizer, mix in some compost for longer lasting and beneficial nutrition. Easy on the nitrogen to avoid huge plants with low yields. Nitrogen also encourages tender growth that’s prone to insects and diseases. For more on fertilizers click here.
Tomato Diseases: Remove any nasty fruit and foliage ASAP and discard, don’t compost. Harvest ripe crops daily to prevent them from rotting on the plants. Water in the morning. Plants should not be wet at dusk. Keep water off the foliage to reduce early and late blight, powdery mildew and other diseases.
Tomato Troubles includes: Quickie Tomato Troubles Table, Happy Tomatoes - Late Blight - Cracked Tomatoes, Blossom End Rot -Verticillium Wilt, Early Blight - Preventing Diseases
Tomato Tips - Saving Tomato Seeds
Potatoes: Harvest ‘new’ potatoes when plants flower. Don’t dig them up, just pull out the baby spuds with your hand. For the main crop, wait for plants to yellow and wither. Allow the spuds to sit in the soil undisturbed for a week and don’t water them. Dig them up with a garden fork carefully. It is inevitable that some will be impaled during harvest. Eat those straight away and don’t store them with the others. Brush off the excess soil and cure in a cool dark and dry place. For more information click here.
August Garden Chores
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Garden Walkabouts: Take a moment to walk around the garden to see what’s cooking. Weeds need to be plucked, crops harvested, obnoxious plants tamed, and wilted ones watered.
Save Water & Feed Plants: When boiling eggs, veggies and pasta, save the water as it's organic plant food and it's free. It's packed full of nutrients and other goodies from whatever's been boiled. Surprisingly, pasta water contains phosphorus, manganese, iron and other nutrients. Use only unsalted water with no other additives or spices when applying to plants, and allow it to cool before using.
Support Plants: Hold up fallen dahlias, gladiolus, delphiniums, garden phlox and other top-heavy plants with inexpensive trellises found at the dollar store. It’s a quick fix and plants look more natural compared to staked plants. Remove the supports when they are no longer needed, which is usually after stems have their spent flowers cut off.
Compost: After adding veggie kitchen scraps, turn the compost pile with a garden fork. Add water if it's dry. Top the pile with a couple of inches of brown (carbon) layer of shredded newspaper or dried foliage to reduce flies, fungus gnats and rodents. If the pile is too wet, mix in shredded newspaper and finish up with a couple of inches of torn newspaper or dried leaves. To learn more click here.
Weed: If you don’t have the time to weed daily or even weekly, at least try to get to it monthly. I’m not a fan of herbicides, even organic ones as dying weeds are unsightly. Another issue is the spray drifting onto neighbouring plants. An instant fix is to hand weed them, but water the ground first to make it easier to pull them out. Add 3 inches of wood chips or another organic mulch to prevent more weeds. Do not put fabric under the mulch.
Collect Seeds: Why spend money on flower and vegetable seeds, when you can collect them from your garden? Save the seeds from peas, beans, corn, lettuce, radish, sunflowers, petunias, hollyhocks, poppies etc. Choose brown, mature seeds and pods, as green, unripe ones will not be viable. Gather them when they are dry to the touch. Store in paper bags or envelopes in a frost free, dry place. Label with harvest date & name. For more click on Collecting Seeds.
Take Cuttings: Grow new plants from your favorite woody trees and shrubs with semi-hardwood cuttings. Look for stems with flexible stems and rigid bases. Suitable plants include lavender, mock orange, passion flower, viburnum, pines, cedars, rhododendrons, Mexican mock orange. Learn more click here. If in doubt, experiment and good luck.
Powdery Mildew: This prevalent summertime disease appears as a white powder like substance on leaves, stems and flowers on many plants especially on cucumbers, tuberous begonias, melons, phlox, roses, tomatoes. To learn how to control this disease read more.
Wilted Raspberries: When only a few of raspberry canes wilt at the ends, crown borer insects are the cause. Control is easy, just remove the wilted stems.
Wildlife, Birds & Pollinators: Swales, ponds, ditches and other water sources usually dry up during the heat of summer. This lack of water is detrimental to all living things including wildlife and bees. Supplying them with a fresh source of water is easy and much appreciated. Place pebbles in shallow dishes around the garden and fill with water. Bees, butterflies and other insects use pebbles to rest on as they take a drink. Remember to keep the dishes filled up with fresh water daily to avoid contamination.
Dead Flowers: Removal of dead flowers not only makes the garden look neater, plants don’t waste their energy producing seeds and those seeds don’t become weeds. Some shrubs, bedding plants and perennials will even reflower: Japanese spireas, bellflowers, garden phlox, roses, geraniums, petunias, coneflowers, balloon-flower, yarrow, daisies, delphiniums just to name a few.
Making Space: It’s a jungle out there, especially at the end of the summer. Rescuing plants that have been overtaken by others, is a big part of gardening. There's always a few plants that crowd out their neighbours and they must be tamed. This doesn’t mean hacking back the bullies, tempting as it may be. Instead, look for the branches that are interfering with surrounding plants. Either cut the bully stems off or just shorten them. There’s no need to cut all the stems off, just remove the offensive ones. It’s a more natural look without the garden looking scalped and unsightly.
Winter Gardening: The growing season doesn’t end if you don’t want it to. To continue to harvest in fall and winter, sow seeds directly into the ground where they are to grow (Direct seed). An easier alternative is to visit your local garden centre and purchase some starter plants. For more on Winter Veggie Gardening click here.
In the Veggie Garden
Happy Veggies: Besides harvesting, veggies need to receive adequate amounts of water to be healthy and productive. Avoid watering just a bit everyday as it results in shallow roots. Deep, long soaks a couple of times a week promotes deeper roots and hardier plants. After watering, dig down with a trowel to make sure the soil is wet past the roots.
Veggies going to seed (bolting): When lettuce, spinach, beets, radish, carrots and other crops grown for their foliage or roots produce flowers leave them be - unless you need the space. Their simple flowers are desired by honeybees, butterflies and other pollinators.
Plant Cover Crops: Once crops are harvested, plant a cover crop to protect and build soil, to reduce erosion, reduce weeds, and add nutrients. To learn more click on Cover Crops.
Onions, garlic, shallots: To encourage big bulbs, snip off garlic flowers as they appear (make them into pesto or add to stir fries). Pulp up onions that flower as they have finished growing their bulbs. Don't cover bulbs as they rise out of the soil. Stop watering when their leaves start to yellow. To encourage ripening, bend their tops over. When foliage browns, dig them up, cut their roots and trim foliage back to an inch or so. Cure on dry ground for a couple of days. Store in a dry, dark location, 4 to 15°C (40 to 60°F).
For more information on veggie gardening click on:
Growing Food - Crop Rotation, Succession & Companion Planting - Harvesting - Growing Potatoes
Planters need love now. Toss out forlorn bedding plants and tidy up remaining plants. Remove spent flowers and their stalks, cut off any seed heads, shorten overly long stems and remove any dead, diseased, broken and spindly growth. Water well, then fertilize with a liquid fertilizer such as 20-20-20.
For a numbered guide to the specific flower names and for other arrangements go to Monthly Flower Arrangements
Plant of the month
Common Name: Oriental hybrid Lilies
Botanical Name: Lilium orientalis
Form: upright, erect, columnar
Plant Type: herbaceous perennial summer bulb
Mature Size: 2 feet to 4 feet
Growth: fast, but slower than Asiatic lilies
Origin: species originate from Japan, S.E. Asia
Hardiness Zone: 4 to 9
Foliage: glossy, green, simple, lance shaped, narrow
Flowers: fragrant raceme, 6 large showy petals, star & trumpet shaped, many colours, early, mid & late varieties, flower after Asiatic lilies
Stems: tall, erect, green, herbaceous (non-woody)
Exposure: full sun at least 6 hours per day
Soil: well drained, moist, loamy, slightly acidic pH 6.3 to 6.8, mulch
Uses: garden border, cut flower, containers, fragrant garden, attracts butterflies & bees
Propagation: bulbs, bulblets, seeds
Pruning: deadhead to prevent seeds
Problems: generally pest free, mosaic virus, bulb rot & botrytis in wet soils, toxic to cats
Comments: There are many types of lilies: Asiatic, martagon, Easter, to name a few but the oriental lily's claim to fame is their intoxicating fragrance and their huge magnificent blossoms.
About Lilies: All members of the lily family grow from bulbs that multiply underground to form colonies. Each fall, their foliage turns yellow, their stems die back only to emerge with new growth the following spring.
All lily flowers are either star or trumpet shaped and bear 3 petals and 3 sepals (tepals collectively). Lilies have multiple blossoms borne atop erect stems that sometimes need staking. Flowers are often bi-coloured in shades of white, pink, red and peach. They bear six long stamens with anthers loaded with rusty-orange pollen that stain clothing and skin. When cutting them for flower arrangements gently pull off their anthers before arranging - but don’t forget to wear gloves. Stems originate from plump bulbs made up of scales. Green strap-like leaves grow up and surround the stem.
Oriental vs Asiatic Lilies: Compared to common Asiatic lilies, Oriental lilies are on steroids. They flower in August, not July and have longer, wider green leaves. To add to their exotic allure, their perfume is heavenly and more intense.
Stargazer lilies are a popular oriental lily series grown and loved by many. The ‘Stargazers’ are so called because their flowers resemble stars that appear to look upwards towards the sky. Their huge fragrant flowers are over 6 inches wide on stems up to 3 feet tall. They are knock-outs and easy to find, hence their popularity.
Where to Plant: Lilies need 6 to 8 hours of full sun a day. Flowering is compromised and stems spindly if it’s too shady. Lily bulbs are prone to rotting in wet soil so select a site with good drainage. To improve all soils, mix in lots of compost. Other options include plant in containers or raised beds. Despite the need for good drainage, lilies dislike dry soil so mix in a few inches of compost and add mulch to keep in soil moisture. The best time to plant lily bulbs is in early fall. By spring, they will have established a good root system.
Planting Lilies: To plant lilies, mix in a couple of inches of compost to the soil. Loosen the soil to a depth of 10 to 12 inches. Make a hole three times deeper as the height of the bulb. Add bonemeal according to the instructions. Place the bulb firmly in the hole pointed end up. Deep planting helps stabilize their tall stems and insulates the bulb from temperature extremes. Space bulbs 8 to 18 inches apart in odd numbered groups (3, 5, 9, 12). Label, mulch with 3 inches of an organic mulch and water.
Maintenance: Water in summer and mulch. Don’t let the soil dry out. The height of oriental lilies depends on the variety and/or cultivar. For tall varieties, staking maybe necessary. Remove spent flowers before they set seed. Keep the remaining stems intact as they provide food to produce next year’s blossoms. Cut yellow stems off in autumn or spring. To protect plants in winter, cover with 4 to 6 inches of an organic mulch. Remove the mulch gradually when lilies shoots appear in spring.
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for the tropical Gardener
While working in Florida as horticultural consultant, it became apparent that there was a need for a book on tropical shrubs. There are so many wonderful shrubs to choose from, so I wrote a reference book to make the selections easier. Ornamental Tropical Shrubs includes pictures in full colour and information about the plants in point form. So if you live in the tropics and subtropics and need a reference book on tropical shrubs, or you just want to have a look-see click here.
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