August 2015
How's Your Garden?

How's Your Garden?

Sweet autumn clematis fills the air with perfume in August.  

Sweet Autumn Clematis

That whiff of perfume from the garden this month may be a secret sweet autumn clematis that has come up somewhere on your property. At this time of year, there are two very similar wild vines that often grow on fences or sprout up under shrubs and then cover the limbs with fragrant white flowers. One is native (Clematis virginiana) and the other is an introduced species (Clematis ternfolia) that has naturalized. If needed, give the vines a trellis next to them to tame them and enjoy their show. There aren’t many plants that peak in August!

Fall Beets

August is the month to begin planting beets in North Alabama, even though it seems mighty hot. Because beets need a couple of months to grow to full size, they are planted in late summer and early fall to mature in the cooler weather of October. However, the seeds will do better if you protect them from the heat with some cover. You can lay a board over the seeds to keep them cool, just check it regularly and remove the board as soon as sprouts appear. To keep a harvest of beets through the fall and winter, divide the plantings so that you sow a portion of the seeds every couple of weeks through mid-September. With the exception of Moneta, a monogerm variety, beets generally sprout two or three seedlings, so be sure to thin right away so the plants don’t grow in crowded. The easiest way to thin beets is to use fingernail scissors to cut away all but one seedling in a clump. Growing your own beets is a great way to shave a few dollars from your grocery bill. Roots are about $1 each at the grocery store, but you can buy a packet of 1,000 seeds for $4-$6.

  Gray, adult leaf-footed plant bugs buzz around the garden often.

Leaf-footed Plant Bugs

Gray, adult leaf-footed plant bugs buzz around the garden, often feeding on flowers, okra and tomatoes this time of year. Be on the lookout for their young. The little red nymphs that hang out in clusters on stems and fruit look nothing like the adults they will grow to become, but learn to spot them and get rid of them as quickly as you can. Like stink bugs, they pierce fruit when feeding so that the fruit doesn’t develop properly. To control the pests, spray with an insecticide labeled for plant bugs on tomatoes or handpick and destroy them. Check the underside of the leaves for rows of brown, barrel-shaped eggs, often laid in a line near the midrib on the underside of the plants.

Succulents are Ideal for August

When you’re looking for something last minute for a container or garden bed this month, reach for a succulent. Designed to withstand dry conditions, succulents have modified leaves and stems with unusual and thick, fleshy geometric shapes in a mix of green, gray, blue or waxy red colors. They often have a waxy coating that gives the leaves and stems a unique finish, too. Some are covered with fuzz. Mixed pots filled with assorted colors and shapes are great for containers on patio shelves, wire plant stands or in whimsical containers.

Outdoor Alabama Mobile App

Have you discovered the Outdoor Alabama Pocket Ranger mobile app of the Alabama Department of Conservation and National Resources? It’s a handy tool for accessing useful information about hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing in the state. In addition to full sections for these, you can access rules and regulations, license and permit information, state parks, access to boat ramps and many other features. The app will update you with events, news and alerts, as well as being interactive during excursions with features such as GPS maps of hunting and fishing locations. You can even synch devices with a friend to keep track of each other while on location. Advanced GPS technology enhances any trek through the woods, allowing you to record trails, use waypoints and photo waypoints to mark spots. You can download the Outdoor Alabama Pocket Ranger for free from either the App Store or Google Play.

Lois Trigg Chaplin is author of The Southern Gardener’s Book of Lists and former Garden Editor of Southern Living Magazine.