5 Things We Should Be Doing In Our August Gardens

Concrete pots filled with evergreens need top-dressing in late summer.
Potted Nellie Stevens Holly needs a topdressing of compost. 
Okay. Garden chores in our Oklahoma gardens in August aren't much fun, to put it lightly. But they are important and can significantly improve the health, vigor and appearance of our landscape and outdoor spaces. So what are some late summer garden chores we should be putting on our garden to do list here in our Southern gardens? Here are some of the things I've been sweating through in my own garden.

Large boxwood is shaded by a board and protected from SW sun.
A recently transplanted boxwood shows signs of heat
stress and belated transplant shock.
 Large boxwood is shaded by a board and protected from SW sun.

1.  Provide temporary shade to distressed plants and flowers.

Shrubs, flowers and some veggies that sailed through the first part of the summer with ease may now be showing signs of heat and drought stress from searing sun and drying winds. In my case a transplanted boxwood from six weeks ago was showing distress from the laser-like rays coming from its southwest exposure. One could use shade cloth (for a variety of sizes and styles, visit the SUNCLOTH STORE here ), but I used a simpler and equally effective method for my situation.  I propped a board up with a bamboo stake to shade it from the offending sun. Easy to put up and take down. A version of this technique might work for you depending on the size and scope of the area you need to shade.

Last chance to trim back your mums to delay bloom until fall. Don't wait!
2. Cut back your mums and asters for the last time.

Garden tradition tells us to cut back our mums and asters for the last time around July 4. In Oklahoma, I think we have a little more latitude in this regard. Cut back your mums now (don't wait much longer!) to delay bloom until later in the fall. Just sheering off the top inch containing the buds should do the trick. And don't forget to keep deadheading your spent flowers for continued bloom.

Cut back your basil before it goes to seed and keep the deliciousness coming.
3. Keep cutting back your basil to keep it from going to seed.

Your basil is no doubt flourishing in the intense heat. Prevent it from going to seed by pinching it back just above a set of new leaves. This will keep this valuable summer herb producing heavily (and deliciously!) for weeks to come.

Pots of mixed succulents were moved to a less harsh environment.
These large and small pots of succulents were moved to a more amenable spot.
Pots of mixed succulents were moved to a less harsh environment.
Small pots of succulents were moved to the ledges in the potager.
4.  Move container plantings that are struggling or dying to less harsh positions in your landscape.

I am embarrassed to tell you this, but it was a real aha! moment for me when I realized that I could move (imagine that!) containers that weren't happy to a more hospitable location. Doing so has saved many a plant in my garden. An added bonus? Often I can move them into spots inside my garden beds that are now bare or devoid of color, filling the gap left by a dying or dormant plant or plants.
I moved all of the succulents in the images above from an area off  my kitchen to the step and ledges on the north side of the studio. Use a two wheeler for large and heavy planters.

Virginia creeper bounds the fence and begins to creep into beds.
Virginia Creeper from my neighbor's yard threatens to take over my garden bed.
 5.  Cut back and tame aggressive vines that threaten to strangle areas of your landscape.

Most of us have some type of overly aggressive plants that can take over our beds and borders if we don't stay on top of them and cut them back regularly. Sometimes ruthlessly so (believe me, you won't kill them!) In my case, I have Virginia creeper and trumpet vine to my north, and wisteria with trumpet vine and Virginia creeper to my west. I spend more time in late summer cutting back plants from neighboring properties that have jumped the fence than I do weeding.  If not kept in check, these vines can strangle trees, take root in your garden beds and bring down your fence. Be vigilant about pruning and taming their rampant growth and invasive nature.

Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to stop by Potager!  If you don’t want to miss a post, you can sign up to receive a daily email and you will never miss a thing. I’m also on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.

For more August garden chores,  watch me and Linda Cavanaugh today at 4:30 on 4 YOUR GARDEN on Newschannel 4.

The Blogger Platform was acting up yesterday and only some of you received my  post. If so, here is an addendum from yesterday that I did on artificial turf . You might find helpful.

P.S.  More Observations on Artificial Turf

~~Because so many of you have expressed intense interest and had more questions and concerns about NEXGEN LAWNS , I want to address some additional points about the specific turf product I selected (I cannot speak to other brands or other lines of artificial turf.)

It is not organic and does not attract pollinators. It is a synthetic substance. The infill however, is not synthetic (unlike the sports field in-fill concerns you may see being discussed in regards to child safety issues)...it is sand with the substrata being a combination of gravel and crushed gravel. This has improved the  drainage and rainfall absorption in my gardens considerably (far less water runoff into the municipal sewer system and now absorbed into my green spaces, on top of not having to water.) In addition, when healthy turf succumbs to heat and drought (and dies, not just goes dormant) in our brutal OK summers, the exposed topsoil is subject to erosion that washes away in heavy rains or blows away in heavy winds. This problem can be mitigated in other ways than this turf, but they are also labor intensive, costly, thirsty, often prone to the same fungal and insect issues, and often not long-lasting solutions. (Or one could put in a pool or a tennis court or concrete patio, but they do not attract pollinators either, LOL) In my case, all of the topsoil excavated to accommodate the gravel under layer was put to use in other areas of my garden and composting area.

As you no doubt know, growing grass under a heavy canopy of shade (or areas that have changing sun exposure as the course of the season unfolds), is extremely difficult to impossible. Artificial turf in some cases could provide a solution in troublesome shade when trees are prized and shade is  a priority over a grassy lawn that must grow in enough sun to support its health and vigor, and/or expanded garden areas.

I do believe it is a solution for small spaces rather than large sunny expanses for a number of reasons. It is expensive, largely because of its labor intensive installation.  Again, I think it is a more practical application for areas that are shaded or sun-shaded and cannot support real turf (or in my landscape, even ground covers), for whatever reasons. In my case I had already removed over 50 percent of my pitiful turf and converted the area into more garden beds, combined gravel/flagstone/brick areas, and also removed a section of my drive to do the same. This left me with little turf area for kids/dogs/and people to enjoy. This turf provides a green space for these activities that requires no maintenance or resources to keep it looking good. (I can blow it off with a leaf blower if need be) Removing a good portion of dedicated turf area also reduced the square footage of artificial turf I needed thus making its installation more affordable.

For most of the day/season my yard is shade to part shade. This is important because the synthetic turf will heat up in full sun and will reflect this heat back into the atmosphere. So again, I wouldn't use it as a replacement for large expanses of turf in sunny areas. where one wouldn't have problems growing a stand of bermuda for example. If you have followed my blog, or visited my garden, you will know that I am a HUGE fan of gravel and flagstone for 'hardscape' spaces
And we may want a new puppy..who will need
soft turf to play....This is my grand-dog Goose, with
 whom Husband
and I have fallen in love.
used for dining and outside living areas, and I recommend it and use it in many of my designs. This may be a non-grass  alternative for those areas, but it too does not transpire like grass and will heat up greatly in full sun. While I love this look as a practical and handsome aesthetic choice, I also for the same reasons want a small area of soft-scape turf to use and enjoy, hence my decision to use Nexgen.

Artificial turf is not a perfect ecological choice and has downsides. Growing a thirsty lawn with its requisite care and fertilizing and spraying and treating is not a perfect ecological choice and has its downsides. I tried the latter for 25 years with no enduring success and great consumption of time, $, water and other resources.  Given the pros and cons and my very particular set of landscape circumstances, I chose the former. AND  I didn't want to buy a new lawn mower (whose presence alone, much less carbon output is also an issue)... AND because it seems foolish to keep up the overseeding-every-fall battle as I age :) , water becomes more and more scarce, and heat intensifies.

Hope this additional information is helpful as you make decisions battling heat, fungal and drought  challenges in your own gardens.

 Reporting from my gardens where it is forecast to be 99-100 every day this week and where we are on mandatory odd/even water rationing.  Jeez. Have I mentioned August is my least favorite month of the year? But fall is on the horizon!  Hope lives!

Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to stop by Potager!  If you don’t want to miss a post, you can sign up to receive a daily email and you will never miss a thing. I’m also on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.

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