August: To Do in the Garden

by Gary Crispell EMGV

Already it’s August! We must be having fun ‘cause the time sure is flying. It’s a good thing we’re supposed to be staying home mostly. I surely don’t have time to go anywhere. Nature abhors a vacuum and so, like most folks, I’ve found plenty to do without going anywhere.

I don’t know about your yard, but ours didn’t get a drop of rain from the first week in July until the 29th.  The Accidental Cottage Garden looks like an accident happened. It is sad. There are a few black-eyed susans (Rudbeckia fulgida) hanging on along with some coreopsis (C. lanceolata and C. verticilata). The butterfly weed (Asclepeis tuberosa) and a late blooming daylily (Hemerocalis x August Flame) are making an orange show and some blanket flowers (Galardia pulchella) are thumbing their noses at the droughty-ness.

We stuck some tomatoes in Earth Boxes in front of the kitchen window and they are very happy. Then there’s the basil … Last year we had three plants. (I like basil.) This year we have 10,378 – more or less.  Basil as a weed species is a novelty to me!

Anyway, here are a few things you can do in your garden when the heat index is not in the stratosphere.

Lawn Care
– Check the lawn for grubs.  If you find some, treat with an appropriate insecticide. If you do not find any be grateful and put the sprayer away.
– Late in the month prepare any areas that need to be seeded with cool season grass (tall fescue, bluegrass).

– Give your strawberries a shot of nitrogen fertilizer.
– DO NOT fertilize trees or shrubbery until December.

– Sow pansy seeds this month in flats, indoors, to transplant to the landscape in September.
– Perennial seeds, such as hollyhock (Alcea rosea), larkspur (Delphinium) and Stokes aster (Stokesia Laevis) can be sown now, outdoors, for healthy plants in the spring.
– Repot more house plants.
– Plant a fall garden with beets, Chinese cabbage, cucumbers, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, radish, rutabaga, squash & turnips.

Nada! Nope. Don’t. No pruning of trees or shrubs until November. In case of hurricane damage disregard the above admonition.

– Same stuff as last month. Look for spider mites on coniferous evergreens (juniper, arborvitae, etc.) and lace bugs on azaleas and pyracantha.
– Continue rose spray program and weekly spraying of fruit trees and bunch grapes.
– Watch for worms on cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower) and borers on squash.  Spray only if necessary. Follow the label instructions.

You may still take cuttings of shrubs.

More things to do if you just can’t get enough of the August heat:

  • Read our Tomato Grafting Project page and up your game for next year’s tomato crop.
  • Make sure your Landscape Plan is up to date especially if you plan to modify the landscape this fall.
  • Keep running up the water bill when the August thunderstorms skip your house.
  • Build a compost bin.
  • Dig Irish potatoes.
  • Stay cool and hydrated.
  • Wear your mask and wash your hands.

September and October will soon be at hand and we can do all those things in relative comfort.

Additional Extension Resources

How to make a meadow:

Maintaining quality turf:

Plant a fall vegetable garden:

Propagation by stem cuttings

Landscape planning and design:

How to build a compost bin

September: To Do in the Garden

by Gary Crispell, EMG

Well, here it is … September! Some of y’all have been waiting for this since last October. For many, it is the beginning of your favorite time of the year—warm days, cool nights, lower humidity, winding down the summer garden … hurricanes. Enough contemplation! There is still much gardening to do this month. Let’s get to it.

With the exceptions noted under “Lawn Care,” you can take your fertilizer and stick it in an air tight container and put it away until Spring.

NOPE!  Fuggeddaboutit. If you must exercise your pruning tools go remove underbrush or unwanted saplings or something. Stay away from your landscape plants.

Stuff to look for and where to look for it:  Wooly adelgid on Hemlock, spider mites on other coniferous evergreens, lace bugs on Azalea and Pyracantha and tea scale on Euonymus and Camellia.

A note about Lace Bugs. They will be active all year anytime the leaf surfaces are warm enough (e.g. about 40 degrees). Being diligent now will help keep them at bay after you have cleaned and put away your sprayer. Also, Azaleas planted in sunny places will have more lace bug issues than those planted in shade.

Spray Peach trees and Nectarine trees for Peach Tree Borers.

Maintain your rose program.

Be watchful in your Fall garden. Many insects and diseases are more active in the Autumn; They like this weather, too.

Weeds to be controlled this month:  Trumpet Creeper, Bermuda Grass and Blackberry.

Only spray if necessary.  Spray as little as possible. ALWAYS READ THE LABLE!

Lawn Care
September is the best time to seed and/or reseed a Tall Fescue lawn. Loosen the soil in bare areas and cover any areas larger than one square foot with wheat straw.

Apply lime and fertilizer as recommended on your FREE SOIL TEST.

Do not fertilize warm season grasses (e.g. Bermuda, Centipede, Zoysia). Fertilizing them now is like giving sugar to your kids at bedtime. They get real active much to their (and your) detriment.

If you missed the August window to treat your lawn for grubs, it is still open until the middle of September.  After that the little buggers quit feeding and go to sleep for the winter.

You may dig and divide spring flowering bulbs now. Daffodils will be especially appreciative of this activity and will show it in the Spring.

Other Stuff to Keep You Outdoors on Gorgeous Autumn Days
Mulch shrub and flower beds.

Clean up and put away sprayers and other gardening equipment that won’t be used again until Spring.

Get your houseplants ready to come back inside. Break it to them gently by bringing them in for a little while each day. Be sure to rid them of insect pests before they come in for good.

If you do not have a fall garden, (What do you mean you don’t have a fall garden?!?) then it is time to chop, burn or toss dead vegetable plants. Burn or toss, especially if they had disease or insect issues.

Checkout the local garden center for spring flowering bulbs you can’t live without (or just covet a whole lot).  October and November will be the time to plant them. You know, “Shop early for the best selection.”

Find a good trail and take a hike. Take your kids or grandkids to the park. Read a book on the deck or patio. Get out of the house with any excuse you can come up with.

See ya’ in October for leaf season.

Moss in Lawns

by Flora O’Brien

Don’t get me wrong. I love all things mossy. But recently, probably because of all the rain, I’ve been getting questions about how to get rid of moss in lawns. In the spirit of equanimity I will address this subject.

If you have moss taking over your lawn the problem isn’t the moss, it’s the lawn. Turf grass struggles in areas that are too wet, too shady, too compacted, too acidic, too lacking in nutrients. These are the ideal conditions for moss, though. In order to eliminate moss, you must resolve these conditions.

A moss lawn in Saluda, N.C., November 2017. Photo by Flora O’Brien.

First address the drainage issues. Limiting the amount and frequency of lawn watering would be a first step. Slowing or redirecting the flow of water by restructuring the topography might help. You could add topsoil or install terracing stones. Placement of a French drain or similar strategies will also work.

To manage excessive shade you might have to limb up or remove trees and large shrubs. Keep in mind that the roots of trees drink large amounts of water so removing them may add to your problems. You could expand the diameter of mulch under trees and around beds. You could also try planting a grass more tolerant of shade but all of them need some sun.

Dense, compacted clay soils like we have in this area will not support turf grass for long. Yearly aeration is recommended. Leave the plugs where they lie. They will decompose and add to the soil’s fertility.

Let’s talk about fertility. First take a soil sample. It may recommend the application of lime to raise the pH and suggest a fertilization regimen. When you mow the grass leave the clippings in place to feed the soil. Good cultural practices like regular mowing, fertilizing and watering will produce the healthy lawn that will resist the growth of mosses.

How about the moss that’s already there. For small patches, dig them out, including an inch or so of the base soil and plant them in another spot. Then add new soil, seed or sod. The entire lawn could be raked dislodging the moss, new soil added and the area reseeded. There are products on the market made especially for killing moss in lawns but if the underlying conditions are not corrected, the moss will return.

Now here’s the thing. If you have wet, compacted soil in the shade you are not going to have a successful lawn without major expenditures of time and money. So why not just let the moss establish itself? You will have a year round green carpet that never needs mowing, watering, fertilizing, spraying, or plugging. It is true that mosses don’t tolerate heavy foot traffic but you could add stepping-stones or pathways. Then find a small, dry area in the sun and plant a pocket of lawn there.

NC State Fair garden vignette, October 2013, Photo by Flora O’Brien.

Sources & Further Reading

This article originally appeared in the EMGV newsletter.

Learn With Us, Week of September 10

Sep 12, 2017, 6:30 to 8 pm – Lawn Care

Maintaining a beautiful lawn in our area is a struggle for many of us. Extension Master Gardener Charles Murphy will discuss the pros and cons of cool season and warm season grasses, optimal lawn care for our Piedmont climate and soil. He will introduce you to the best maintenance methods and untangle the confusing range of lawn care products.

Sarah P. Duke Gardens, 420 Anderson St., Durham, N.C., 27708-0341.

Free. Registration required. Call (919) 668-1707 or email:


by Michelle Wallace

The first two weeks of September is the best time to reseed your cool season lawn.  Do not wait! Use 6 pounds of seed/ 1000 square feet.  Choose seed with a germination rate above 90% and with as high a percentage of guaranteed seed 97% or better as you can find.  Plan to water 2-3 times a day at first for the first 2 to 3 weeks then gradually reduce the number of times a week you are watering to once a week (by the third mowing). The grass needs about an inch of water and the water needs to be reaching depths of 6 to 8 inches deep.  This will promote deep rooting and protect the grass from long periods of dryness.