GARDENING IN IOWA

August gardening maintenance tips

FROM THE GROUND UP | LINN COUNTY MASTER GARDENERS

Now is the time to start ordering your fall bulbs like daffodils, which should be planted in the fall for spring blooms.
Now is the time to start ordering your fall bulbs like daffodils, which should be planted in the fall for spring blooms. (Sacramento Bee)

Each month, Master Gardeners provide some maintenance ideas for your annuals, perennials, vegetables, lawns, trees and shrubs. These gardening tips will help you to de-stress in nature while beautifying your landscape.

We’ll feel the peak of the heat this month. Take care of your plants by applying mulch in areas that don’t have any. And don’t forget to take care of yourself by gardening in the morning or evenings to avoid the hottest part of the day. Wear long sleeves and a hat to protect yourself from the sun’s rays. Japanese beetles will start to enter the soil this month and lay their eggs so it’s best to eliminate adults now to reduce future problems. Remove and destroy the beetles in soapy water. Don’t use traps because they just attract more beetles.

BLOOMING FLOWERS

It’s bulb ordering time! There are so many colors and choices to consider: daffodils, hyacinths, tulips, paperwhite narcissus, lilies, gladiolus and more. Have fun dreaming of all the beautiful flowers for next year.

Check your plants throughout the week and water when the top few inches of soil are dry. Plants that are mulched or shaded need less watering. Apply your monthly fertilizer when it’s not a hot, dry spell so you don’t damage the roots of your plants. Continue to cut back faded flowers (deadheading) to the first set of leaves.

You can start to prepare for next year by taking cuttings of your plants to overwinter indoors. Common plants to overwinter are coleus, geraniums, begonias, impatiens, fuchsia and herbs. Cut a 4- to 6-inch healthy stem and remove any flowers and the lowest set of leaves. Dip the cut end into a root hormone (you can purchase it at your local gardening store) and then plant it in a well drained potting mix. Place it in a bright location and keep it moist. Care for it like any other houseplant and you’ll have a jump-start on next year’s flowers.

IN THE GARDEN

If you aren’t too tired from collecting your harvest this year, you can still plant cool weather vegetables: chard, onion sets, kohlrabi, leaf lettuce, mustard greens, radish and spinach. If you have an overabundance of produce, consider sharing with your friends or donating to a food pantry. If you have questions on donating, contact the Linn County Master Gardener Hortline at (319) 447-0467.

Speaking of harvesting, here are some tips. When the tops die, harvest potatoes and onion sets. Pick peppers and cucumbers when they are full of color and at the size you want. Consider putting mulch under your melons to help avoid rot. To enhance the flavor of your tomatoes, leave ripe ones on the vine an extra few days.

If you notice blossom end rot on your tomatoes, consider mulching to keep the soil moist and wait. Blossom end rot is caused by calcium deficiency but our soils have enough calcium so don’t add more. Once the soil moisture is consistent, the tomatoes will adjust and the remaining tomatoes will be fine.

It still is a busy time for pests. Monitor plants closely for cucumber beetles, Colorado potato beetles and cabbage worms. If you find squash vine borer, remove and destroy infested vines this fall to help reduce next season’s population.

LAWN CARE

For lawn care, keep your grass 3 to 3 1/2 inches tall because it will be more drought resistant. By mid- to late August, you can start to repair or replace your lawn. With the cooling temperatures and warm soil in the second part of the month, it’s a good time to lay sod and seed your lawn. Until then, focus on sustaining your lawn by watering up to an inch per week. Wait another month before fertilizing established lawns.

TAKE CARE OF TREES

It’s an excellent time to plant trees, and you can often find good prices at your local nurseries in late summer and fall. As you walk through your yard, check new trees and remove any labels, wires or other material that can cause damage to the trunk. August is not a good month to fertilize or prune your trees due to the upcoming winter cold.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Take some time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Grab a chair, a cold drink and a book to sit under a large shade tree. It’s a good time to write in your gardening journal about what went well and what you want to do differently next year. “There are no gardening mistakes, only experiments,” said Janet Kilburn Phillips, so take time to enjoy your experiments.

For more information, check out these Iowa State University Extension articles:

• RG 105 — Garden Tips, Guidelines to Seasonal Chores

• RG 201 — Integrated Pest Management for your Home Gardens and Landscapes

• RG 209 — Organic Mulches

• PD 54 — Tomato Diseases and Disorders

• PM1072 — Establishing a Lawn from Seed

• HORT 3033 — Sodding a New Lawn

• HORT 3068 — Top 13 Vegetables to Donate to Food Pantries

• PM 731 — Harvesting and Storing Vegetables

Call the Master Gardeners with your questions at (319) 447-0647 or send your questions and photos to linncountymastergardener@gmail.com.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.