To Do in August

by Gary Crispell, EMGV

Just in case you were napping when it happened, IT’S AUGUST! The dog days are here. That means at our house that the dog is permanently camped on an AC vent.  Who knows? Maybe she’s got the right idea. However, if you are one of those people who insist on torturing yourself in the garden, here are some hints to get you in and out of it quickly.

About the only things that will benefit from fertilizing in August are strawberries. If you don’t have strawberries don’t even think about fertilizer.

Plant pansy seeds in flats for transplanting into the landscape in mid-September. (You can do it in the cool kitchen!)

Bulbs to plant in August include Lycoris (spider lily), Colchicum (autumn crocus) and Sternbergia (autumn daffodil).

Sow seeds for Delphinium (larkspur), Stokesia laevis (Stoke’s aster) and Alcea rosea (hollyhock) now for a dazzling display next spring.

Go all in for a fall veggie garden by planting beets, Chinese cabbage, cucumbers, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, radish, spinach, winter squash and turnips.

NO!! DO NOT! Sharpen and oil the shears and hang them back up where you can find them in January.

Watch for spider mites in coniferous evergreens and potted annuals especially if the plants are water stressed. Spray if you must.

Keep up with your rose program.

Peach and nectarine trees need their trunks sprayed for borers at the end of August.

Watch the cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, etc.) for worms and spray squash (except butternut) for squash vine borers.

Maintain the weekly program for bunch grapes and fruit trees.

August is an effective time to apply broadleaf herbicide on Similax (greenbrier), kudzu, Campsis (trumpet creeper), and Wisteria sinensis (Chinese wisteria).

Lawn Care
If you think of grubs as, well, grubby now is the time to apply an appropriate pesticide.

It is time to prep bluegrass and fescue lawns for fall overseeding. Sorry, but if you want Yard-of-the-Month next spring ya gotta overseed in the fall. The other option is a really big natural area (with HOA approval, of course). Or you could look into sustainable landscaping which is really cool stuff.

Other Activities to Make You Hot and Sweaty
Take your landscape plan out (You DO have a landscape plan, right?!?) and see what you might be ready to add to the yard in the fall. Fall is for planting.

Water stuff when Mother Nature is slack in that department.

Build a compost bin.

Dig your Irish potatoes. This time of the year I dig them in a sour cream potato salad.

August is also your last chance to chill out and rest up before fall planting and harvesting season.

Gardeners Calendar: To Do in July

by Gary Crispell, EMGV

And June is gone. I trust you didn’t miss celebrating the solstice. There are some ancient traditions out there that bear repeating.

Now it is July. Time to set the automatic drip irrigation and go to the beach. Let the neighbors harvest the veggies for a week (or month) and kick back. Yeah, yeah I know. The weeds. Well, they’re going to be there anyway. Pull ‘em in August. Okay, here are the things you need to be aware of this month.

Lawn Care
Hopefully you fertilized your warm season grasses in June. However, if you procrastinated now (as in this week) would be propitious. When mowing those grasses remove 1/3 of the growth per mowing. To promote root strength of all lawn grasses and overall aesthetics change directions each time.

Continue to side dress the vegetable garden.

July is your last chance to fertilize trees and shrubs.

Those Brussels sprouts and collards you started last month should be ready to set out by mid-July.

Get a jump on your fall garden by sowing beans, carrots, and pumpkins. If you are optimistic about a warm fall you may also set out tomato plants.

This is also a great time to repot any overgrown house plants.

Trees that bleed readily (e.g. maples, dogwoods, elms and birches) can be pruned in July.

Prune out die-back from rhododendron species. Sterilize the pruners between cuts.

Cut back to the ground any fruiting canes of blackberries and raspberries post-harvest.

Prune hedges as necessary.

Narrow leaf evergreens can be pruned early in the month.

Pruning spent blossoms from crape myrtles and perennials will promote a second blooming.

Cease pruning spring blooming shrubs. Pruning now will most likely remove next year’s flower buds.

Pinch your mums (chrysanthemums that is) one last time the first week of July.

What to watch for:  lace bugs on azaleas, pyracantha and pieris, bagworms on flat needle evergreens (arborvitae, Leyland cypress, etc.), white flies on several species (they are especially fond of my lantana and hibiscus), spider mites on any plant under stress and aphids on everything.

It is prime Japanese beetle season.

Continue your rose program as well as fruit trees (many of which are members of the rose family) and bunch grapes.

Vegetable garden pests that can ruin your day now include cucumber beetles (guess where), flea beetles on beans and eggplants, and the ubiquitous aphids.

Watch for blight on tomatoes. Treat with appropriate fungicide.

July is a good time to treat poison ivy (oak), honeysuckle and kudzu with the appropriate herbicide.

Remember to spray wisely—never too much, always only when necessary and ALWAYS READ THE LABEL.

July is a really good time to take semi-hardwood cuttings of azalea, other rhododendron species, camellia, holly and many other spring blooming shrubs.

Other Stuff You Can Do if You Don’t Have a Pool and a Good Book and Access to Adult Beverages
Check your landscape plan (You DO have a landscape plan, don’t you?) to see if it needs tweaking.

If you have fruit trees that didn’t bear this year they can be pruned as if they were dormant. This will help prepare them for next year (or maybe it will scare them into performing next year).

Prune any storm damage.

Blossom end rot on tomatoes is caused by erratic watering–they really prefer not to get too dry — and low pH solved by adding lime. The lime won’t help this year as it takes four to six months for it to break down into a form usable by plants. There are calcium salt sprays available as a stopgap measure for this year. So, you can solve the water problem immediately, but the solution to the pH problem should involve a FREE soil test.

Giving your plant a long slow soak a couple of times a week is a much better method than 5 or 10 minutes per day.  It will help them develop deeper root systems.

Gardeners Calendar: To Do in June

by Gary Crispell, EMGV

It’s June? (very soon!) OMG!! Did May ever happen? I hope you are more ready for summer than I. Although, ready or not, here it comes. Forthwith a hopefully helpful list of possible gardening activities presented for your perusal.

Lawn Care

If you have heretofore procrastinated on this item it is TIME to fertilize warm season grasses (i.e. Bermuda, Zoysia, St. Augustine). It is also the best (and really only) time to fertilize Centipede. The general recommendation is for half a pound 15-0-14 or equivalent per 1000 sq ft. Should you desire to be truly accurate–GET a FREE SOIL TEST.

It would be difficult to core aerate our clayey soils too much, so a day or two after a rain or a good irrigation would be an ideal time to do just that.

When mowing warm season grasses a good rule of thumb is to remove one-third of the new growth per mowing.

If you have been drooling over your neighbor’s Zoysia lawn June is a good time to start your own with sod or plugs.


After getting your FREE SOIL TEST in order to avoid over fertilizing, now is the time to feed your dogwoods following the recommendations.

Vegetable gardens would like a side dressing of fertilizer about now to maximize production.


Again, for the procrastinators out there, if you want a crop this year better get these plants (too late for seeds) in the ground ASAP: tomatoes, peppers, black-eyed peas, lima beans, green & wax beans, pumpkins, sweet potatoes.

Start (from seed) Brussel sprouts and collards to set out in mid-July.


Coniferous evergreens–they produce seeds in cones–like pines, cedars, junipers, arborvitaes, etc. may be pruned now.

Hedges can be pruned now but be advised: Do not remove more than one-third of the total plant top (the green part).

Keep pinching your garden mums until mid-July.

Hydrangea macrophylla (the ones with the BIG leaves) can be pruned when the flowers fade.

Azaleas may be pruned until July 4. (An “old wives tale” that works.)

Dieback in ericaceous plants (acid-loving) such as azalea, rhododendron, Pieris, etc. can be pruned out now. Remember to cut below the damage and to sterilize the pruner with 10% bleach between cuts.

Pest Control and Herbicides

Patrol your shrubs for the following likely suspects: lace bugs, leaf miners, spider mites, aphids and bag worms. Use appropriate measures to curtail their destructive tendencies. If the bag worms have already bagged themselves you will have to hand pick them and destroy them in any manner you see fittin’.

June is also the beginning of the Asian invasion better known as Japanese beetles.  There is a myriad of treatment options out there.

Tomato early blight could be rampant this year what with all the warm dampness.  Watch for dark spots on the leaves and treat with an appropriate fungicide. There are some good organics out there.

June is a good month to eradicate poison ivy, kudzu and honeysuckle. Get ‘em with an appropriate herbicide while they are rapidly growing.

As with shrubs it is time to be on guard in the garden. Several (many?) insects are looking for gourmet gardens to satisfy their gastronomic inclinations. Look for a variety of worms on cruciferous veggies (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower), cucumber beetles on cucumbers (ironically), squash borers on other cucurbits–squash and melons, flea beetles on green beans, tomatoes and eggplant, and aphids on anything green.

Continue with regular pest management programs on bunch grapes, fruit trees and roses.

Use pesticides wisely, sparingly and only when necessary. Always read the label and follow directions.

Other Fun Garden Stuff to Keep You Outside

Water lawns as necessary but try to do it early in the day to avoid evaporative loss.  Watering lawn in the evening promotes disease. Lawns and gardens need about one inch of water per week either from natural sources or irrigation.

Strawberry beds can be renovated now.

June is also a marvelous time to sit on the deck or patio with a glass of your favorite cold beverage and enjoy your garden.

To Do in April


  • Fertilize azaleas after they bloom
  • Fertilize annuals, shrubs, and trees that were not fertilized in the fall


  • Plant summer bulbs
  • The average last spring frost date in Durham County is April 13, +/- 11 days. After last frost, plant herbs and warm-season vegetables.
  • The following warm-weather vegetable can be planted this month:  green beans, cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, sweet potatoes, melons, swiss chard, beets, cantaloupe, and corn.
  • Replace cool-season annuals, such as pansies with summer annuals.
  • Plant perennial seeds, such as hollyhock, coreopsis, daisy, phlox and Sweet William.
  • Plant small fruit plants, such as strawberry, blueberry and blackberry.


  • Cut back butterfly bushes to approximately 30”
  • Cut back ornamental grasses close to the ground
  • Prune azaleas after they bloom
  • Pinch chrysanthemums to promote later bloom


  • Spray insect oil on fruit trees
  • Check azaleas, rhododendron and pyrachanta for lace bugs.  Treat with an insecticide if necessary.
  • Spray roses before buds open.
  • Begin spraying to control poison ivy, honeysuckle and kudzu with a recommended herbicide.

Lawn Care

  • Start mowing tall fescue to three inches
  • Begin irrigation
  • Fertilize warm-season grasses
  • Do not fertilize cool-season grasses, such as tall fescue, Kentucky blue grass and fine fescue now.
  • Mow your warm-season grasses at the correct height.  Bermuda and zoysia at 1 inch and St. Augustine at 2-3 inches.


  • Divide perennials such as daylilies and hostas

Specific Chores

  • Perform mower maintenance
  • Re-mulch beds
  • Clean out water gardens

To Do in March


  • Fertilize shrubs.
  • Fertilize your important shade trees.
  • Fertilize asparagus beds early in March before spear growth begins.
  • Ponds should be fertilized starting this month and continuing through October.
  • Before planting your vegetables, fertilize your garden as recommended by your soil test results. Apply the recommended amount of lime if this was not done in the fall.


  • The average last spring frost date in Durham County is April 28 +/-11days.
  • Plant a tree for Arbor Day! Arbor day is always the first Friday after March 15.
  • Plant your small fruit plants, grape vines and fruit trees before the buds break.
  • March is a good month to transplant trees and shrubs.
  • New shrubs and ground covers can be planted the entire month of March. Be sure to follow your planting plan.
  • Plant seeds of the following perennials: columbine, hollyhock, coreopsis, daisy and phlox. Sweet William can also be planted this month.
  • New rose bushes can be planted this month.
  • Plants of broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower should be set out in the garden in mid-March.
  • The following vegetables can be planted this month: beets, carrots, Chinese cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, Swiss chard, turnips, potatoes,cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower.
  • Start any annual flowers or warm-season vegetables inside your home that are not commercially available in early March.


  • Prune fruit trees.
  • Prune spring flowering plants like breath-of-Spring (Winter Honeysuckle) and flowering quince after the flowers fade.
  • Prune roses late in March.
  • Prune shrubs like abelia, mahonia and nandina this month if needed.
  • Pick off faded flowers of pansy and daffodil. Pansies will flower longer if old flowers are removed.
  • Overgrown shrubs can be severely pruned (not needled evergreens).


  • Spray the following landscape shrubs for the following insect pests: euonymus-scale, juniper-spruce spider mites and hybrid rhododendron-borer.
  • Start your rose spray program just prior to bud break.
  • Spray your apple and pear trees with streptomycin for control of fireblight while the trees are in bloom.
  • Begin fungicide spray applications for bunch grapes.

Lawn Care

  • Cool-season lawns may be fertilized with 10-10-10, but NOT with slow-release fertilizer.
  • Apply crabgrass herbicides to your lawn late this month to help control crabgrass in the turf.
  • Mow your tall fescue lawn as needed.
  • Seed fescue and bluegrass if not done in September.


  • Continue to divide perennials like daylily, shasta daisy, gaillardia and coreopsis this month.

 Specific Chores

  • Check garden supplies like fertilizer, insecticides and fungicides to see if you have adequate amounts.
  • Check all garden equipment, lawn mowers, tillers, hedge trimmers, tools, hoses and sprayers to see if they are in find working order before they are needed.
  • Be certain that old plantings of perennials like peony, hollyhock and phlox are clean of last season’s growth.