- Author: Lanie Keystone
Before we get started on our August gardening, I'm curious where that saying, “Dog Days of Summer” comes from. So—here it is: The Romans started it all by using the term during the hottest, most humid time of summer. They associated these days with the star Sirius—the brightest star in the constellation—named Canis Major—a large dog.
Filled with that bit of trivia—let's look ahead to our August gardens--there is plenty to do to keep them healthy, bountiful, and beautiful for months to come.
Let's take it one step at a time.
- Water Realities: This is a tricky one, because, once again, we're in the middle of a California drought. However, if you're thirsty in this heat, so are your plants and trees. With the drought always in mind, deep soak your vegetable garden, fruit, and landscape trees in addition to your shrubs and perennials. Replenishing the mulch around each by 2”-4” is key to retaining moisture. And, don't let those drooping leases on hot afternoons fool you! Stick your finger down a couple of inches and water only if your soil is dry.
- August Pests: Warm season vegetables can attract sap-sucking whiteflies. Reduce these critters by removing infested plant parts. You can use sprays of water, yellow sticky traps, neem oil, or insecticidal soap. Follow the instructions carefully. Make sure to check out and treat the underside of leaves where whiteflies lay eggs. If a given plant is rapidly declining, remove it. Ants have been a particularly big problem this year. It's important to control them as that will help reduce sucking insects such as aphids that farm them. And, finally, watch those weeds. They love the water as much as your plants do! And, they'll compete for all the good stuff in your garden, as well. So, keep on weeding!
- Beautiful Beds and Borders: My herbs are giving us all such delight this summer and we can enjoy many of them well into the fall and winter and beyond. This is a great time to consider planting a tree such as a bay laurel. Think about perennials such as sage, lavender, and rosemary—they each make great structural contributions to our gardens and even can form shrubs. For low-growing herbs, think of creeping ground cover such as thyme. And, you can always let your annual herbs such as colored basils, parsley, or coriander go to flower and seed.
- Bountiful Crops: Our apricot tree was the definition of bountiful this year! What fun making apricot jam, cakes, and tortes and just eating them or giving them away to grateful folks. Now it's time to prune that “giving tree” as well as cherry trees. Don't wait until winter for these two—you want to prevent the fungal disease Eutypa. August is the time to give young fruit and citrus trees the second half of their annual fertilizer dose. As for ripening melons, pumpkins, and winter squash—set them on boards to avoid rot and insect damage. Be sure to pick up fallen fruit on a regular basis. Leaving rotting fruit on the ground encourages pests and diseases.
So, that's the August garden routine. Enjoy these wonderful “Dog Days of Summer”. Stay cool and watch the night sky for Canis Major—the bright and glorious Dog Star.