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Battling the Water-to-Weed Cycle

A pile of pulled green weeds lays beside a garden bed.
Weeds are thriving in Virginia's current weather.

To be honest, August is mentally the toughest month for me. The heat seems endless along with the watering which encourages the weeds, I think of it as the W to W Cycle, water-to-weed cycle. The mulching completed earlier in the season always helps, but recently some areas needed additional mulch to improve soil moisture retention and weed suppression. The optimist in me seeks the silver lining in this cloud of heat as I remind myself August means the end is in sight, there only 4 more weeks until September. Come September, temperatures will cool down and the rain typically increases spurring the garden into regrowth for the glorious season of autumn.

Despite the high summer sun, enjoy the summer garden. I hope you are enjoying a beautiful display of summer annuals and a bounty of vegetables and herbs. I have been harvesting the vegetables growing in containers and I am trying to keep up with drying the basil and the stevia. Hours have been spent flicking Japanese beetles into jars of soapy water and hand-picking off the potato beetles. I have made notes to apply milky spore bacteria to the landscape to reduce the Japanese beetles and to rotate the potatoes to another section of the garden since the larvae stage of the potato beetle overwinters in the soil.

Green blades of grass have brown, dried spots on the top ends
Leaf Spot can take over in high temperatures and humidity.
Source: University of Massachusetts Amherst

I noticed some Leaf Spot, Bipolaris sorokiniana, on my grass blades the other day, and I will keep on eye on them since this turf disease thrives in high temperatures and humidity. Given the right conditions, this disease will kill a whole plant. When sharpening the cutting blades, always clean the blades and spray them down with isopropyl alcohol to sterilize them. If the lawn needs to be watered, do so in the morning so the leaf blades dry quickly. Many turf diseases thrive in the summer conditions of Virginia, declining as the conditions change with the onset of fall.

Last month I encouraged gardeners to plan their fall garden; with the days shortening, now is the time to plant that plan. In zones 6a and 6b, it is time to sow salad greens and the cole crops which include kale, collards, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, as well as radishes, turnips, leeks and beets. In zones 7a and 7b, another sowing of beans can be squeezed in along with carrots, the cole crops, turnips, leeks and beets, but save the salad greens and radishes for later in the month.

August borders are typically a sea of yellow with annual and perennial sunflowers, black eyed Susans, Sneezeweeds, and late blooming daylilies. Crocosmia are adding a touch of red and orange, and soon the asters will join in. Consider visiting a local public garden to discover what is blooming in their gardens during August.

Green, flat-leafed parsley grows in a container box
Parsley is a versatile herb, from feeding caterpillars to fresh cooking to tea-brewing.

I have been growing parsley, a portion is for the swallowtail caterpillars while the rest is for my use. While I use this fresh herb in cooking, dried it makes a tea with many health benefits. Due to its bland taste, consider adding it to lemon balm tea or peppermint tea for a very healthy and refreshing summer beverage.

Green, oblong-leafed basil is growing in a container.
When basil goes to flower, the herb's leaves lose their flavor. Trim the flower buds to retain the taste.

Always harvest herbs in the morning before the dew dries, but more importantly consult with your physician before using medicinal herbs. This year I have diligently removed the flower buds from the basil plants which enables the plant to retain its flavor - I cannot say the same for the flavorful spearmint plants I received from a neighbor!

Due to the cool spring, many trees are overburdened with seed pods this summer. A few Redbud trees at Maymont have split under the weight of them. The excessive fruiting could impact the health of a tree as they demand a tremendous amount of energy and resources to produce so many seeds. At home, I removed the seed pods from the Round Leaf Stewartia, Stewartia obassia, to reduce the strain of producing so much seed. I know this tree is not thriving since being damaged last summer, so I am intentionally redirecting the tree’s resources to be used for growing roots and shoots rather than producing seed.

There is so much to do in August that I just may be able to ignore those hot days…or not! Instead I will grab my wide brimmed hat, apply my sunscreen, pick up my gloves and enjoy spending time in the garden, despite the heat.

Thanks for watching and
Happy Gardening!
Peggy