Summertime in the Southwest can be brutal on plants, and August is perhaps the toughest month of all. Hopefully your garden is providing you with some cool enjoyment in early morning and in the evening hours. For a garden full of night-time enjoyment, read my article on creating a “Moon Garden” our Southwest Gardening site SWGardening.com.
Anytime During August
August is the last good chance to plant cacti, new Bermudagrass lawns, or palm trees. These plants with tropical genes need ample time get their roots down into the soil during this warm time and well before first frost.
Fertilize lawns, palms, flowers, vegetables, landscape plants, during August. Wait until Labor Day to fertilize citrus.
Water pecan and citrus trees widely away from the trunk, and deeply to ensure a good crop. Avoid shallow daily watering.
Sharpen mower blades. Yes, again. Hurts the lawn less if you mow with sharp blades.
Walk your fence-line or walls. Check for spots where hungry wildlife may get in. Gates are especially an issue. If you discover a snake in your yard, it is because you have mice, packrats, or other similar food the snake is tracking with his very sensitive tongue.
Look for Chlorosis – Yellow Leaves.
August often brings chlorosis. Plants with paling, often yellow, leaves but with green veins are suffering from the inability to take up the iron that is rich in our desert soil. Books written for Back East call this iron-deficiency and tell you to add iron. DON’T waste your money adding iron! Our soils have enough iron – but are very alkaline and the plants can’t absorb the iron from alkaline soil. Plants are showing alkaline-induced-iron-chlorosis.
Quick treatment for chlorosis in the Southwest is 1/4 cup vinegar in 4 gallons of water and use this mix to water plants with. Chlorosis may clear up within 2 weeks. It will reappear.
Long term treatment is to add compost to the soil and add coffee grounds or other soil acidifiers on a regular basis. Susceptible plants include roses, plus non-native fruit trees like citrus and apples. I covered summer citrus care in an earlier blog, here.
Tasks After mid-August
Plant a fall vegetable garden with pumpkins, squash, zucchini, bush beans, and robust tomato seedlings.
Cut back any over-summered tomato plants. This will encourage new growth and fruit in fall.
Iris can be and divided and transplanted in August or September.
If oleander has galls, cut affected branches off at least one foot below the galls. Be sure to sterilize clippers in bleach water or rubbing alcohol between every cut.
Please come to one of my free lectures, many through the Pima County Library. After each presentation I will be signing copies of my books, including “Month-by-Month Guide to Gardening in Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada” (Cool Springs Press). Note – This link is to Amazon and if you buy the book there I will get a few pennies.
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