August — typically the hottest month of the year — is upon us. The recent weather has certainly been favorable for plants of all kinds in the woods and in our gardens. We have not needed to water as often due to timely rains and milder temperatures. Of course, that can quickly change during the next couple of months.
If you have never tried a fall vegetable garden, August is the month to get started.
Here’s a quick list of what can be sown in August for a fall harvest:
n Warm season (group these together, since they will be finished by November and can be removed to make room for something else) beans, cucumber and summer squash.
n Cool season: broccoli, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, carrots, cauliflower and Swiss chard. Seedlings and transplants will need extra care to help get them established, including paying close attention to soil moisture, and maybe initially providing some afternoon shade. All of the cool season crops listed can continue to be planted in September.
Peppers and tomatoes planted earlier this year usually will not set fruit during the extreme heat of summer, even though they may still be flowering. If the plants remain healthy, they will set fruit again once temperatures stay below 90 degrees. Sidedress established healthy plants with fertilizer and keep watered to encourage new growth.
The main goals for the August lawn are to avoid drought stress and watch out for pests. With the frequent rains we have been receiving, you should monitor your yard to determine whether it actually needs supplemental irrigation. For example, yesterday I got 0.8 inches of rain, so I don’t anticipate needing to water (if it doesn’t rain in the interim) at least for another five or six days, based on my soil type, etc. But, at my office, it rained less than one-half inch, so if my lawn was located here, I might have to water sooner. The hotter and more windy it is, the more frequently you will need to water.
Those with St. Augustine lawns should be on the lookout for chinch bugs. You’ll see symptoms before you see the insects — wilted grass (despite moist soil), eventually turning yellow and finally straw-colored. Weeds and other grasses remain green since chinch bugs don’t bother them. Expect potential problems in sunny parts of the yard and where the lawn is more easily stressed, like along a hot sidewalk or by the street, because chinch bugs like it hot, sunny and dry.
You still have options for color for your landscape. Some easy choices for the rest of the summer include lantana, salvia, sweet potato vine, zinnias, marigolds, ornamental peppers and caladiums (for shady spots).
If your garden beds are drying out too quickly, or you are getting a lot of annual weeds popping up, turn to mulch to solve these issues. Besides retaining moisture longer, and helping keep weeds from germinating, it keeps the soil cooler, which makes for better growing conditions for your plants. Shredded or chipped hardwood mulch is ideal. Pine straw and other organic-based products work well also, and all help improve the soil as they decompose, which is another added benefit of organic mulches.
The next webinar for Small Acreage Horticulture Crops is Aug. 21, with the topic “Practical Weed Control.” Dr. Joe Masabni, Extension vegetable specialist at College Station, will focus on organic options, and will cover cultural, mechanical and chemical methods, plus highlight some equipment and leave plenty of time for questions and answers. Cost is $10 ($20 for the series). It starts at 9 a.m. at the Smith County AgriLife Extension Office, and will end about 10:30 a.m.
The East Texas Lecture Series starts again in September. Mark your calendars for Sept. 13 when Master Gardener David Gary will present “Enjoy Your Home Landscape — Make Your Yard Fit Your Life.” Gary has learned to continue gardening despite muscular dystrophy restricting him to a wheelchair. His garden, which he designed, enables him to enjoy his hobby. This inspirational program shows how to easily design your landscape to fit any limitations.
The Lecture Series continues Oct. 25 with Greg Grant, research associate at the Pineywoods Native Plant Center in Nacogdoches and co-author of “Heirloom Gardening in the South.” Grant will discuss choice plants for the home landscape in the program “Forgotten & Under-utilized Plants for East Texas.” The last lecture is Nov. 15 when Dr. Dave Creech, director of the SFA Mast Arboretum in Nacogdoches, will highlight choice trees for the landscape, including Japanese maples. All three programs will be at the Tyler Rose Garden Center, starting at 9 a.m. Cost is $15 per lecture.
Keith Hansen is Smith County horticulturist with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. His web page is http://EastTexas-Gardening.tamu.edu. His blog is http://agril ife.org/etg. Find him on Facebook at face book.com/easttexasgardening.