August 2014 Gardening Calendar
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This summer has not been particularly bad for rainfall but keep alert for a decline in trees or shrubs under stressful situations. A deep soaking once per month can make a big difference for trees in parking lots or in construction areas. Newly planted trees and shrubs also need special attention. Water them at the base every two to three weeks until their roots expand.
In the vegetable garden, it is time to plant the fall tomatoes. There are some indications that a small number of Surefire tomatoes will be on the market. Surefires produce tennis ball-size fruit that matures very quickly. If you see them, purchase them. They are an excellent fall tomato.
Early Girl will also be available in limited numbers on some markets. It is described by gardeners as being nearly as fast to mature as Surefire. Consider Early Girl as an experimental selection. If a number of us grow it, we can match notes on its performance.
In addition to Surefire and Early Girl, consider SolarFire, BHN 968 (Cherry Surprise), Tycoon, Tigress, BHN 602, 444, Phoenix and Valley Cat transplants for the garden. Tomatoes with heat tolerance and a short period between planting and harvest are desirable choices for the autumn garden.
Pull up the tomatoes that were planted in the spring. They are likely to be infested by spider mites and infected by fungal diseases. The peppers, okra, and southern peas will continue to produce if they are well watered.
Fire ants are attracted to raised bed gardens because of the good drainage and moisture. They also harvest milk from the aphids on okra and will eat the blooms and small fruit. To control them, look for fire ant control products with spinosad, also known as Conserve, as the active ingredient. They are often labeled for use in the vegetable garden and are effective. Otherwise, use Amdro as a bait outside the garden. Acephate can be applied directed to fire ant hills outside of the garden.
In the flower garden zinnias, vinca, cosmos, moss roses and purslane should bloom for another four months. Deadhead zinnias to maintain maximum bloom.
Coleus, penta and caladiums should still be making a show in the shade and will as long as you keep them watered--none are xeriscape plants. Watch for tomato hornworms on the penta. Spray a Bt product on the foliage as soon as hornworms are discovered. A tomato hornworm can strip a penta of foliage within a few days. Use slug and snail bait to control their feeding on the shade plants.
Fruit trees must be well irrigated in August, even if there is no fruit on the tree. Flower buds for next spring are developing now, but only if there is adequate moisture.
If watering the lawn is wearing you out and destroying your budget, cut back to every two weeks for St Augustine grass. Bermuda, zoysia and buffalo grass can be allowed to go dormant, so you can stop watering for the rest of the summer without causing permanent damage. The dormant grass will green up when the fall rains begin.
Some gardeners plant their wildflower seeds in August. Most wildflowers need full sun to bloom, and they need soil contact to germinate. The seed cannot be placed on a layer of organic material. The seed should not be buried.
Keep your hummingbird feeders and bird baths full this month. Mosquitoes are usually not a problem in bird baths, because the water evaporates dry in the course of one day. In your water barrels, try a few drops of cooking oil on the water’s surface to block the mosquito wiggler’s air tube.
Calvin Finch Ph.D. is a Horticulturist and Director with the Texas A&M Water Conservation and Technology Center.
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