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August Garden To-Dos

Tired of that Hampton Roads summer heat and humidity yet? Wondering what to do in the garden in August besides melt? No one would blame you if gardening was the last thing on your mind and for many gardeners the month of August begins the downhill turn of the summer garden. Not to worry, fall is just around the corner and August is the perfect time to get your garden ready for the cooler months ahead.

Here's a few tips on to how get a head start on your autumn garden, as well as how to keep your summer flower and veggie gardens going longer:

  • Continue to harvest fruits & veggies to stretch the season.
  • Pick herbs for fresh use and for drying ~ and like all edibles, harvesting will keep them going longer.
  • Plan and purchase spring bulbs for planting.
  • Spread a mid-season layer of compost or manure.
  • Freshen up mulch or pine straw.
  • Continue to deadhead blooming plants to prolong their bloom time ~ this really works!
  • Begin saving seeds and taking cuttings.
  • Prune summer-blooming shrubs (Hydrangea, Clethra, Caryopteris) as their blooms begin to fade.
  • Trim and fertilize hanging baskets to prolong their beauty into the fall.
  • Begin dividing perennials.
  • Take pictures of container combinations you would like to repeat next summer.
  • Begin planning your fall veggie garden (leafy greens and root vegetables). You'll be surprised how much you can grow in cooler months!
  • Plant fall-blooming bulbs Crocus and Lycoris, so they'll bloom on time. These are gorgeous fall blooms you'll definitely love.
  • Begin to plan perennial beds for fall and winter color with ornamental grasses and fall-blooming bulbs. This is also a good time to plan for the addition of trees and shrubs, since fall is the best time to plant.
  • Water, Water, Water! Remember the basics ~ water early in the morning; water soil not leaves; water deeply and occasionally rather than shallow & often; and of course water containers extra often.
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The Bug You Want in the Garden

THE BENEFITS OF LADYBUGS

Of all the insects in the garden, the ladybug is probably the most familiar and there are many reasons we love them. A ladybug’s bright coloring will not only bring cheer into the garden, but they are also great for getting rid of “bad bugs” without the use of harmful insecticides making them a gardener’s best friend. They are most active in warm weather from spring until fall and feed on aphids, spider mites, scale, thrips, whiteflies, mealy bugs and other slow-moving, soft-bodied insects, larva and eggs. Known for their ferocious appetites, a single ladybug can eat up to 50 aphids a day – that’s 5,000 aphids during its lifetime! They’ll stay in your garden as long as there’s something to eat.

Today, you can buy ladybugs at most garden centers to help diminish those unwanted pests. Once you and your ladybugs arrive home, keep the container they come in sealed and place it in your refrigerator or a cool place. Being cool calms the ladybugs down. Keep them refrigerated (35-40 degrees) until you’re ready to release them. It’s best to free them in the evening hours, so they'll have time to find a place to sleep and settle in for the night. In the early morning, they’ll wake up, find some something to eat, and hopefully will make themselves at home. They may also be thirsty, so spray some water on your garden plants before you release them. You’ll only have to do this once, since they'll get the moisture they need from the insects they feed on.

Once they’ve become a garden resident, you want to make sure they stick around. There's a few ways to encourage them to hang around your place and not go flying off to the neighbor's garden. You can keep and attract ladybugs to your garden by planting marigolds, angelica, butterfly weed, yarrow, roses, and goldenrod. In a vegetable garden, lure them with cucumbers, peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes. You can also keep ladybugs at home by offering a hibernation site. Pile dead leaves, hay, straw, or other organic mulch at the base of a fence or around plants to serve as winter housing.

It’s no wonder gardeners welcome these lovely bugs with open arms - and remember, kids love ladybugs too so be sure to involve them. Children will have fun releasing ladybugs into the garden and what a great way to teach them about their environment.

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To-Dos in the August Garden

August brings hot and sticky weather to Hampton Roads. With it, too, comes the full enjoyment and bounty of the edibles and flowers you've tended during the spring and early summer. The most important thing to do in your garden right now is... enjoy all the beauty you've accomplished!

Sit back, relax and enjoy that gorgeous view. Here's a few easy tricks to keep your garden in tip-top shape through the rest of the summer:

Pick Faded Blooms
Keep your annuals blooming by consistently removing faded blooms. If allowed to remain, blooming will likely decrease, as the strength goes into making seed. Also, pick flowers for bouquets in your home. This will not only help keep the garden neat, but will increase flower productivity. Gather blooms in the evening and plunge in water overnight before using.

Mulch
A lot of gardens this time of year need a fresh application of mulch. Check that your mulch hasn't decomposed and add more as needed. Mulch conserves moisture. So, to properly conserve moisture and protect your plants, it is important to top off beds with bark, wood chips or pine needles at a depth between 3 to 4 inches.

Pick Herbs
Pick herbs for fresh use and for drying. Remember, harvesting will keep them growing longer!

Water
Watering chores will eat up your garden time this month. Remember the basics:
• we recommend watering plants in the early morning
• water the soil, not the leaves in order to prevent spreading disease or fungus
• water deeply and occasionally, rather than shallow and often
• remember to water your containers, as they tend to dry out before plants in the ground

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