August 2011
How's Your Garden?

How's Your Garden?

Get Ready for the Fall

Toward the end of the month when nights begin to cool down a little, it’s time to start thinking about planting a fall vegetable garden. Sow seeds of carrots, beets and other root crops, and cover them with a board to help keep them cool to sprout. Lift the board each day to water and leave it off as soon as you see the seeds sprouting. Transplants of fall vegetables will be arriving at your local Bonnie Plants dealers as the weather allows. Some of the best fall items include broccoli, lettuce, collards, cabbage, spinach, Brussels sprouts and strawberries. Fall can be dry, so be ready to water. Use parsley with pansies and violas to add rich green lush foliage to your flowerbeds in winter.


Borrow an idea from San Diego and place succulents in dry, sunny spots.


Succulents from San Diego

Each time I visit San Diego I am captivated by the variety of plants in the landscapes there. The weather is cool enough to support low-chill blooming plants, but it rarely freezes, which allows gardeners to grow items like cherry trees alongside tropicals like bird of paradise. The dry climate also allows a multitude of succulents. Although we don’t have their arid climate, we can borrow ideas from their landscapes heavy with succulents by adapting the plant palette to items that grow here, especially for dry, sunny spots in gardens.

Blackberries will dieback after fruiting; and the canes should be cut back and removed so provide for new growth.


Blackberries Naturally
Dieback after Fruiting

Blackberries, called "cane" fruits, are born on long thorny canes that die back after they fruit. It’s important to cut these back at the base and remove them so they don’t harbor any disease that could affect the healthy canes. This will leave new growth that will be the canes for next summer’s harvest. As long as the dieback is only from the canes that just produced fruit, don’t fret. This is normal.


Try a pop-up canopy to provide a little relief from the sun while working outdoors this summer.

A Good Idea

My neighbors had the right idea when they put up a tent to work under in the August heat. A 12 x 12 pop-up canopy is easy to put up and can make the difference between progress or the lounge chair in summer when flowerbeds need a little weeding. These lightweight tents are easy to move about different areas as you work. A great idea.

Fertilize Your Tropicals

Any tropicals like hibiscus or mandevilla have been in bloom for a long time. Give them a boost with a little fertilizer so they finish summer as pretty as they started it. If the foliage is yellowing, add a couple of tablespoons of Epsom salts to a gallon of water to help bring back the green. Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) provide magnesium, the central element in the chlorophyll molecule responsible for the green color of plants. Palms also need more magnesium than most plants, give your palms a little, too.

Refresh Your Roses

Tip prune re-blooming roses and give them a little fertilizer to encourage a nice fall flush of new blooms. Hybrid teas and most shrub roses love the cooler fall weather and will respond nicely if you take a little care now. Just remove the old blooms and hips, sprinkle a little rose food around the base and keep the plants watered. If leaf spot diseases have been a problem, consider raking up the old mulch and replacing it with new.

Iron Poor

There is still time to grow a second crop of cucumbers, above, or pole beans if your plants have stopped producing.


The leaves of certain plants like gardenias, azaleas and hollies can be bad about yellowing because they need iron. You can sprinkle the base of the plant with a solution containing iron and other micronutrients to help restore the deep-green color of the leaves. When applying the iron, beware it can leave a dark stain, so avoid pouring it on painted surfaces, outdoor furniture, concrete walkways, etc.

More Cucumbers and Beans

If your cucumber plants have quit producing, there is still time to plant again for a fall crop. Most varieties bear within two months, so you can plant in early August and begin harvesting late next month. The same goes for pole beans. They will sprout up quickly in the warm soil—just keep it moist. Grow them on a trellis to give the leaves better air circulation to keep them dry and avoid mildew.

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