I have had to do a lot of watering this past month. It seems like we have had little rain and the few showers in the area have missed my little plot of land. We are now entering the driest period of our year and can expect high temperatures throughout August. It looks like many watering days are still ahead of us.
I have a few plants that tell me if I have waited too long to water as they droop and look like they are about to expire. Your lawn will tell you as well. Look for footprints that remain in the lawn or disappear slowly, as well as turf that has rolled leaves or a bluish-green color.
We are fortunate in the Mid-South as our Bermuda and Zoysia lawns, if well established, have the ability to go dormant and survive until the rains return.
When watering, plan to provide one inch per week. It is often difficult to tell how much rain we get as our summer showers are often scattered and you may not get any at your home, but a shower at the airport where the official rainfall information is gathered may be quite different. You can solve this dilemma by purchasing an inexpensive rain gauge or set a tin can in your yard and measure the rainfall with a ruler.
When watering, there are several guidelines to follow.
- Water in the cool of the morning. This practice will save water as less is lost to evaporation. Your plants, including your lawn, want to be dry when the sun sets. A wet garden at night tends to stay moist all night long and sets up perfect conditions for the onset of a host of diseases, including powdery mildew.
- Water deeply. Most plants benefit from one inch of water each week. If you provide this in little sips of water each day you encourage plant roots to stay near the surface of the soil. Shallow-rooted plants are less tolerant of drought and less robust overall. It is best to deliver that inch of water in one weekly dose without allowing it to run off. To achieve this, water one area, move to another and cycle around to the starting place. Repeat as often as necessary to achieve the full amount. You can determine when you have reached your goal by using a rain gauge or by placing an empty can or bucket in your yard and using a ruler to measure the depth.
- Plants don’t follow a time schedule. Water when it is needed. Purchase a moisture meter from your favorite garden center. They are inexpensive, work well and allow you to test moisture in the root zone of your plants or lawn.
Plants in pots dry out faster than those in the landscape. You may have to water them daily. If there is a lot of peat in your potting mix, when it dries out it will pull away from the edge of the pot and water can run down this gap and out the bottom, giving you the sense that you have watered well. Don’t be fooled by this as the center of that pot will still be dry. Water the pot, then move on to the rest and come back and water them all again until water runs out to make sure you are watering thoroughly.
There are three things you may want to prepare for in August.
- The Delta Fair starts Aug. 31, and there are many contests you can enter to earn bragging rights (and a ribbon to prove it) in the horticulture categories. Go to deltafest.com/p/compete/crafts to download entry categories and details.
- Your garden may not be at its best just now, but it will get a second wind for a great fall show. If you are proud of your garden, why not consider opening it up for a tour in June of 2019? If you are intrigued and are a resident of Bartlett, please contact the City of Bartlett, Office of Community Relations, during regular business hours at (901) 385-5589. Give your address information to the receptionist, who will refer that information to the Bartlett City Beautiful Commission.
- Mark your calendars to learn more about native plants. The Memphis Horticulture Society is hosting a Native Plant Conference Oct. 26-27.
August garden to-do list
- Planting: Start seeds of fall vegetables.
- Lawn care: Continue to mow Bermuda and Zoysia lawns at two and one-half to three inches and fescue lawns at three inches.
- Fertilization: Fertilize roses to encourage last new growth.
- Pruning: It’s too late to prune azaleas. Cut back annuals like impatiens, vinca and petunias to encourage fall bloom. To encourage fall bloom, prune roses lightly and cut seed pods off crepe myrtles. Complete pruning of shrubs and bushes before the end of the month so that any new growth after pruning has time to harden off before the winter.
- Other: Continue to water on weeks with less than one inch of rain. Continue to monitor for insect and fungal diseases and treat as needed. Keep hummingbird feeders and birdbaths full.