August in The Garden
By Bob Dailey
A plant’s gotta be a tough customer to bloom in August, but there are some out there, folks. If your bougainvillea made it through Winter Storm Uri, it should be showing some exceptional blooms. And the hardy crepe myrtles are also expressing themselves quite nicely (please don’t knuckle them). Of course, lantana is blooming, especially the rangy and poorly-behaved Texas ham and eggs variety. Native salvias enjoy the heat, as do Turk’s Caps, hardy hibiscus, crinums, and daylilies. All of these need some water, but none need to be fertilized during this heat. Fertilization will only stress the plants.
Keep in mind that salt is in the water you are using to irrigate your plants. And salt can accumulate in the soil as the water is taken up by plants, as it evaporates, and as plants transpire. Salt accumulation is not a severe problem for in-ground plants because summer rains can leach out the salt. However, potted plants can accumulate salt quickly. During these hot months, use twice as much water on your potted plants as you would typically use. Do this at least once in August and once again in September. This will leach out salts and keep your plants healthy.
Fall vegetable garden
Start preparing your garden beds now by enriching the soil with good compost or composted manure. Add some organic fertilizer. That will help the beneficial micro-organisms in the ground to flourish. Remember that the Montgomery County Master Gardener Association will have an herb and vegetable sale from 9 to noon, October 16, at the Montgomery County Extension Office in Conroe.
The master gardeners maintain a very successful aquaponics operation, raising tilapia, using the waste products to fertilize seedlings, and utilizing rainwater harvesting to provide water. If you’re interested in aquaponics, the master gardeners sponsor a class this month (August 14, 9-11 a.m., at Extension) on the topic. Look up “Events” on this site for more details.
St. Augustine does not only go dormant in the winter. In the summer, if it’s too hot, St. Augustine will go dormant. It’s just the way of things. Still, an inch of water a week is all that a lawn needs to keep a healthy root system. Too much water now can result in serious lawn problems down the road. If you have an in-ground irrigation system, the best time to use it is between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. During that time, water pressure is high, and evaporation is low (think water bill).