The mercury steadily rises and the sun scorches everything in its path – our abundant spring rainfall is now a distant memory. The end of summer doesn’t produce perfect gardening conditions, but believe it or not, late summer is a great time for one thing garden-related: sorting out the winners and the losers of the gardening world. If a plant or a tree is going to make it, it had better be able to handle some serious heat. Now is the best time to find out which plants can take the sizzle.
Encourage you to look at what is doing well right now, while we’re really feeling the burn. Go to parks and botanical gardens, look around your neighborhood, heck, even check out your own yard. Try and identify the plants that are blooming and growing well. If it’s looking good now, you know you have yourself a winner.
Here are a few plants for this end of summer period:
ROSE OF SHARON: Actually, a type of hardy hibiscus, not a true rose. These heat lovers come in several different colors and bloom all summer. Older specimens can easily grow 10 – 12 feet tall but can be kept smaller with pruning. In my opinion, the Rose of Sharon is one of the most underutilized plants in our area.
BLACK DIAMOND CREPE MYRTLE: A relatively new variety of the crepe myrtle tree that is just awesome. Black Diamonds sport dark, almost black, foliage and feature a variety of different flower colors.
GIANT CRIMSON PARASOL MANDEVILLA: We grow these in our jumbo containers and they beautifully withstood the heat of recent summers. The flowers get quite large, and the vines are fast growers. Planting one in a container may be your best bet so that it can be pulled inside during the winter; remember, these Mandevillas are not cold-hardy. They do bloom all spring and summer.
A GARDENING MAGIC TRICK
Gardening magic trick that will make your summer garden so much better: Mulch! Mulch all bare soil in your flower beds, mulch around your young trees, and by all means, mulch in your veggie gardens, too. Add at least a two-inch layer of mulch on top of the ground for best effect. I really like the brown hardwood mulch, but almost any mulch will do. Mulching helps keep the moisture in your soil and keeps the temps down around the roots of your plants. It also increases the biological activity in your soil and stimulates earthworms. Mulch even helps get rid of weeds!
NOW, LET’S TACKLE YOUR LAWN
Late summer isn’t a very active time for lawn maintenance but there are a few things to know. First off it is important to keep your grass on a proper watering schedule. Most lawns are going to want 1” of water per week. To make sure you are watering the proper amount bury a coffee can in the yard before you water your lawn and then measure the amount of water that it collects afterward. This will help you adjust your watering schedule if needed. Also, worth noting, water your grass super early in the morning, if possible, as that will help eliminate fungus problems.
There are a few potential problems to keep an eye on too. The first is an issue called brown patch that is mostly only a problem in St. Augustine lawns. It will appear as yellow or brown circles in an otherwise healthy lawn. It is caused by a fungus and will need to be treated by a fungicide if you want to get rid of it. There are organic fungicide options for this issue if you choose to go that route.
Also, grub worm damage can be a problem in late summer too. They also cause browning areas in a lawn but usually in a more irregular shape. To confirm that the issue is grub worms dig into the area shovels depth. If you see more than a few of the large white grub worms, they are probably the cause. There are multiple products on the market that can help with this problem on the market. There is a really neat organic bio-based product called milky spore that helps combat grub worms. It is a natural soil living bacteria that is very toxic to grub worms but is not toxic to pets, humans, wildlife, or beneficial insects it specifically targets larval stage worms. Milky spore is available for purchase online if you can’t find it in your local nursery.
Last but not least, keep an eye out for chinch bugs. They will normally attack the edges of your lawn first so look for damage where the grass borders the sidewalk or a fence. These can be treated with an insecticide labeled for lawns and again there are organic options available.
Fertilizing grass at this time or applying compost as a top dressing right now is not recommended as there is a very high risk of burn due to heat. Just keep your lawn watered properly and wait until the end of September to early October to fertilize or top dress.