Why do plants enhance well-being? One thought is that working in the garden with plants is an effective way of holding our attention and diverting awareness away from ourselves and our worries. Another way of saying this is that when we have our hands in the soil, are planting, pruning, weeding, etc., we are focused on our task and our thoughts remain there. We no longer are as overwhelmed by the worries of our everyday existence. For those of you who exercise regularly or who have a hobby or interest, you know this phenomena. When you are concentrating on it, the rest of the world takes a short holiday. What is especially appealing about gardening, however, is that the results of your labors, whether a water garden, pot, or lush beds, bring back this feeling when you have a chance to enjoy the beauty and “fruits” of your labor.
Still another reason that gardening works is that nature often reminds us of other times. For some, it’s vacations. For me, a lovely garden reminds me of the peace and safety of my childhood home. No wonder, no matter where we have lived, the first thing I did after moving into a new home was to plant certain things: lilacs, roses, poppies, clematis, hedges of boxwood, flowering cherry trees, etc… all reminders of various gardens of my childhood home. Walking in our yard after a long day of mothering, doctoring, and everything in between, calmed and soothed me so that the hard work to make the gardens beautiful seemed a small price to pay.
Now to the August chores in the garden. August is hot in most parts of the country and so it’s a month that many people overlook their gardens. These chores can be done at your pace, so don’t think that all of them have to be done in one day. They are a combination of suggestions of master gardeners and extension centers.
Now for August tasks: Remember, these are suggestions from which you can pick and choose. Don’t feel you have to complete every item on the list.
- Look at your azaleas. If the leaves are turning yellow they may need iron. You can remedy this by applying aluminum sulfate or cheated iron compounds around the base of the bushes. Poor leaf color can also occur on gardenias, camellias, hollys, and some grasses.
- Many azaleas may also have lace bug damage. Apply recommended insecticides when the lace bugs are present, usually each spring, late summer/early fall.
- During August make sure to water chrysanthemums as they will wilt quickly without water. Don’t over water as you can cause root rot. Lightly fertilize every week with the proper agent. Do not pinch or prune mums this month if you want fall blooms. Do prune hydrangeas this month, however.
- If you’re going on vacation, move house plants outside to a shady spot and water. Bury the pots in the soil or peat moss to cut the need for extra water. Mow the lawn and water it just before you leave. Soak the flowering beds that have annuals and cut off all blooms to encourage more blossoms when you return. If you have an automatic sprinkling system, be sure the timer is set correctly to water in your absence. If you don’t and are going to be away for more than a couple of days, arrange for someone to water for you. Spray plants with insecticides and fungicides for protection against diseases while you are gone. Weed beds before you leave to stop the spread of their seeds.
- If you’re planning a fall garden, early in August is a good time to transplant tomatoes and peppers. Also seed broccoli, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, collards, turnips, cucumbers, lima beans, shallots, and Southern peas. Mid-to-late August is a good time to plant carrots, beets, snap beans, and lettuce. You can also transplant broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage.
- Late August is a good time to prune roses, especially those that have suffered through the heat of summer. Fertilize with a slow-releasing agent after pruning. Continue with a good disease control program for maximum fall blooms.
- Azaleas and rhododendron should be fed again with a 10-8-6 fertilizer as well as a bit of Sulfate or Potash 0-0-50.
- You can still plant petunias, blue salvia, impatiens, marigolds, dusty miller, browallia, and rudbeckia for fall color. I don’t know if I’ve been remiss in their treatment this year, or it’s been just too hot, But, I’ve had to replant pots and move them to more sheltered spots. In August start fall-flowering kale and cabbage so that you can transplant them this fall. Don’t forget to fertilize vegetables.
- The trees under the eaves of your house need lots of water during this time of year. If you’re going to fertilize, use slow release nitrogen for evergreens and shade trees.
- Now is the time to take cuttings from impatiens, geraniums, and wax begonias to over-winter indoors.
- Order spring-flowering bulbs for fall planting.
- Cut herbs and flowers to dry for winter cooking and flower arrangements, or to enjoy fresh, now. Dry the thick stalks of your basil. Dried basil stems are sold at gourmet shops as an “aromatic wood” for your barbecue or grill.
- Hand prune and destroy bagworms, fall webworms, and tent caterpillars.
- Prune out and destroy the raspberry and blackberry canes that bore fruit this year. They not only will not produce fruit next year, they might harbor insects or disease.
- In the garden, harvest your spring plantings and enjoy. Remove fading and dead flowers and till the soil for fall bulb planting.
A long list, yes. Gardening is great exercise; just don’t overdo so you stay well to enjoy the results.