Hot, steamy, rainy? Bugs the size of your bike? It still is a tropical delight in Zones 10 and 11. Make sure to not let water stand long enough to breed mosquitoes. Collect fallen citrus and discard if it is inedible. Watch the skies for daily storms. Keep an eye out for snail damage in the garden.
August 2012 To Do List: Zones 10 & 11
• Plan ahead for your next crop of vegetables. Consider building raised beds or using containers.
• If you’ve been bothered by nematodes, fungus or out-of-control weeds this year, this is a good time to consider ‘solarizing’ your vegetable garden’s soil. To solarize soil, remove spent garden plants, placing only healthy plant material in the compost pile. Rake a thin layer of aged compost into the soil. Water lightly, then cover with a heavy plastic sheeting. Be sure to anchor it to the ground with bricks or pins. You are using the extreme temps of August to bake the weeds and nematodes, by helping the soil heat up to about 140 degrees F. Leave the plastic in place for 4 to 6 weeks to do the work. No need to worry about the worms. They’ll go deeply underground to stay cool. This practice will help to minimize the use of chemicals to control some of the problems for next growing season.
• Start seeds indoors, with good light, misting daily.
• Keep your compost cooking and moving for next season’s veggies.
• In Zones 10 and 11, the coleus is a very long-lived annual that is very easy to grow. New plants can easily be generated by cuttings. Here’s how: Cut stems below the third set of leaves, at an angle. (An angled cut allows a bit larger surface to come in contact with water.) Remove all but the top set of leaves and place in a clear container with fresh water. After a hearty set of roots has formed, dip the cutting into rooting hormone then plant in a clean pot with fresh, moistened potting soil, sand or perlite.
• With varieties that love the sun or thrive in the shade, their distinct leaf patterns make them a garden star. If you missed planting them this year, it may not be too late for you to enjoy them in container gardens or landscape beds to combine with flowering annuals and perennials.
• Snails will defoliate a garden quickly. Use diatomaceous earth (useful only when dry) and iron phosphate (safe around animals). Or you can put out a pan of beer, which the slugs will love as much as you do.
• Perennials tend to be durable plants when placed in the best conditions or them to thrive. Otherwise, they can become stressed. Be sure to stake them when they become too tall and thin them out when they are too crowded.
• Feed your angel trumpets again this month. This long-lived perennial is a very heavy feeder. Cut back heavy branches, wearing gloves. Remember that this plant is toxic. Keep it away from pets and children.
• Propagating your angel trumpet is easy. The seeds from these plants are very toxic and slow to germinate. Wear gloves when handling seeds. Cuttings are very easy to root. Just dip them in rooting hormone, put them in a good potting mix and water. Within a few weeks you will see new leaves develop which is a sure sign that your cutting is developing roots. Cuttings placed in a bucket of water will set roots very quickly, too.
• If you haven’t planted Echinacea (coneflower) this past season, find some and stick it in the back of a border or in the center of a round bed. It is one of the hardiest, self-seeding perennials around. Although it is a ‘prairie’ plant, the hybridizers have developed them to perform well into Zone 10, in a selection of colors. Coneflowers seem to bloom all summer, with little deadheading needed. The bees and butterflies will really enjoy them.
• Another self seeder is the ‘blackberry’ lily. Keep a watchful eye on the seed production to help relocate them in your flower garden. Appearing in the garden with iris-like foliage, the blooms will remind you of orchids. It is named for the unusual black berries that form in clusters when its seedpods split open in fall. Though the bloom seems short lived, there are several on a stem and fascinating when used in a floral arrangement.
• Sorry to say, but keep up with your weeding! Every one you pull now saves thousands from coming up next year.
• There is no need to prune your roses dramatically to prepare for the following seasons. Just remove spent blooms and dead branches with a bypass pruner, and dispose of properly. Prune non-flowering branches that cross over another. Feed your roses every 6-8 weeks. Roses should receive 2-3” of water per week (including rainfall). Supplemental watering is needed if your roses are in containers or a raised bed. Water should be applied in early morning with a deep soaking 2-3 times a week. Some large old tea and China roses are far more drought resistant than newer varieties. Do not be tempted to plant new roses until the winter.
• Severe weather with high winds is a fact of life in Zones 10 and 11 causing a major impediment to maintaining healthy trees. Ask yourself, and a trusted arborist, if the tree will pose a threat to people, animals or property in the event of a storm? Is the tree’s present condition leaving it vulnerable to pests or disease? Damaged bark and broken branches are a good indicator.
• Hire a professional, insured / bonded tree service for large tree removal.
• Crape myrtles are long blooming, easy care trees through Zone 11. They have a long blooming period and can grow in many soil conditions. Cultivars in different sizes and flower colors are available. This native of India’s blooms start in June and continues through the fall, with hundreds of long flower clusters. Patches of bark flake off in summer to reveal new bark ranging in color from pink to green. It is often home to lichens and air plants which add to its seasonal interest.
• Crapes myrtles will develop into graceful small trees with no pruning. Avoid pruning if possible. If you must prune, cut no branch with a diameter larger than your thumb or you’ll make those ugly fist-like knobs on the end of branches. We call that crape murder.
• You may not need to run your irrigation system as often during August. Check and adjust the timers according to the weather reports. Though the Farmers’ Almanac is predicting a moderate storm season, follow local weather reports.
• Diseases to your turf grass are less common than ‘injury.’ If you maintain a healthy program of watering, feeding and weed control, but the turf still seems to have areas that are ‘odd,’ see if it has suffered from spilled gasoline, pesticides or fertilizers. Research to identify the presence of a disease, the conditions promoting its development and the management needed to eliminate these conditions.
• Consult with your local Cooperative Extension Service or a professional landscape management and pest control company, if you need to. Most turf disease in Zones 10 and 11 are fungal related, and not dangerous to humans.