The beginning of August is either the beginning of the end when it comes to your lovely flowers and productive vegetable garden or the start of the late summer and fall garden of beauty and bounty.
The unusually hot weather last week means what you do in your garden this month will determine how it behaves for the next six weeks.
Your garden and landscape need more than just water, water and more water. Here’s a Top 10 list of the most common things people do to mess up their garden in August:
1. Don’t water pots and baskets often enough.
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As your plants grow they need more water in late summer because roots fill their containers. Most hanging baskets will need half gallon of water every day by the first of August. They also need more fertilizer…. see rule No. 1.
2. Stop fertilizing potted plants.
Plants in containers need fertilizer all summer long. The dry summer weather in July means we all water our pots more than usual and this flushes the nutrients from the potting soil even if you used a slow release, organic or liquid plant food.
Keep fertilizing your plants in containers, following the instructions on the package of whatever type of plant food you decide to use.
3. Allow potted plants to sit in saucers full of drainage water.
Raise those pots an inch so the bottom of the container does not sit in water.
By August, the roots of many potted plants have grown to the bottom of the pot and will seek water through the drainage hole. If the drainage holes become blocked and sit in water, plants suffer from root rot.
4. Don’t water lawns and shrubs deep enough.
Watering for 10 minutes or less every day is bad for your lawn. Daily watering trains the grass roots to sit at the surface, waiting for a handout, and this turns into a drinking problem.
Water less often but water longer so the roots will follow the moisture down deep into the soil. Northwest lawns need at least one inch of water a week to stay green.
Aim to water once or twice a week and make sure your lawn is well aerated and free of thatch to encourage the water to percolate deep into the ground. The roots will follow moisture and your lawn will become less water dependent.
5. Don’t water their rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias and newly planted shrubs often enough.
These spring blooming shrubs need water in August and September if you want them to put on a show in the spring. They have shallow roots so you can hand water with a hose over the roots zone every few days. April flowers depend on August watering.
6. Forget about summer pruning.
Shorten up those tall rose stems once they finish flowering, get snippy with the spend blooms of lavender, delphiniums, poppies and other early summer bloomers. Cut the tops off your tomato plants once they start producing ripe tomatoes. If a plant is ugly, cut it back.
7. Forget to plant more vegetables for an autumn harvest.
Onion sets, kale, carrots and cabbage can be planted in late summer for an autumn harvest.
8. Don’t harvest zucchini and green beans when they are young and tender.
The summer squash will hide from you under the foliage. Seek and find them so you can enjoy zucchini and green beans when they are young and tender – the more you pick the more you get. Harvest summer squash when it is the size of a large pickle.
9. Don’t keep their tomato plants consistently watered.
Irregular watering causes cracking and splitting of tomatoes. Water the soil not the foliage or fruit. Keep the soil evenly moist.
10. Biggest mistake of all: Forget how wonderful it is to garden in Western Washington.
Take a moment every day to notice everything good in your garden.
Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of several books. Reach her through her website at binettigarden.com or write to her at P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw WA 98022.