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Weekly Gardening Tips for Your Area


Aug. 2013 To-Do Lists: Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

Susan Wells

Make sure you're not feeding a fungal infection when you water your lawn.

The threat of fire is real. Consider removing plants that are known “combustibles.” These include, but are not limited to, bamboo, eucalyptus, palms, pines, and ornamental grasses. Consider replacing wooden mulches with stone/gravel. Keep the area nearest your structures well irrigated. Containers will need to be watered at least twice a day unless it rains. Fertilize containers only once a month with compost tea or fish emulsion. If plants in clay pots dry out quickly, replant them in a doubled pot. Choose a plastic pot for the interior pot and set it inside the clay pot. The plastic will allow better root development and keep the soil from drying too rapidly. Avoid fertilizers with quick release nitrogen, as they will stimulate late, new growth which may reduce the plants’ ability to ward off winter injury.

Vegetables / Fruits

•    Keep everything picked clean to keep plants productive. Can, freeze and dehydrate surplus crops.

•    Start seeds for cool season crops. Celery and all members of the cabbage family will be ready to go into the garden by the end of September.

•    Do not fertilize your deciduous fruit trees in August, or they won’t achieve dormancy in time for cold weather.

•    Mature fruit trees in the interior valleys need two or three deep waterings a month during the growing season. Along the coast, once or twice a month should be plenty.

•    If you have composted your papayas, they may have gone to seed and are ready to transplant in August. Papayas will thrive on sheltered south-facing hillsides near the coast.  

•    If you want to grow a papaya in a container, try the popular ‘Babaco’ papaya (Carica x heilbornii pentgona).

•    Pick your corn when the silks are crisp and brown and the kernels have a milky juice in them.  


•    To treat powdery mildew on roses, mix 1 tablespoon of baking soda, 1 tablespoon of horticultural oil and a ½ teaspoon of liquid dish soap with 1 gallon of water. Spray in the early morning every 5 days for up to 3 weeks, when the weather is damp. Though this solution will not completely cure the problem, it will slow its spread to other plants.

•    Pruning your roses internally will increase air flow, which will help ward off disease.

•    Thin native spiderwort aggressively, making sure to remove the roots. Pot up what you dig up for gifts.

•    Stake tall plants in need of support.

•    Plant cool season annuals from seed this month.


•    Prune spring flowering shrubs after they have finished blooming.

•    Crape myrtles are a beautiful, drought resistant (and “fire resistant”) flowering tree for the inland areas. Purchase them when in bloom, so there is no guesswork in the color choice.

•    The eucalyptus beetle prefers to attack the ‘blue gum’ eucalyptus if it is under the stress of drought. Irrigate to protect it.


•    When a large number of white moths flutter over the lawn in the evening, you may notice blades of grass chewed off at ground level. Further investigation will show grubs of the soil webworm. To kill soil webworms, spray your lawn in the evening, after mowing, with Bt (as it is a live product, buy it fresh seasonally). Grubs will ingest the treated grass and die.

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