August 2016
How's Your Garden?

How's Your Garden?

Shear the Lamb’s Ears


Lamb’s ears respond to late summer grooming with fresh new growth.

Perennial lamb’s ears offer a year-round touch of gray that can carry a bed through the seasons, but it can grow ragged-looking by the end of summer as the fuzzy foliage piles up in layers. In our humid climate, the lower and inside leaves often turn brown, but the good news is that plants respond well to grooming. You can freshen the planting by removing all the older browned leaves from under the plant and trimming overgrown stems. Remove the oldest woody stems, leaving some young pieces to grow. Old-fashioned lamb’s ears may be stretched tall with blooms; you can trim these off. Varieties such as the large-leafed Helen Von Stein don’t bloom. All varieties will grow another flush of pretty, fuzzy new leaves for the fall and winter.


Young and adult boxelder bugs can gather in large numbers and become a nuisance. (Credit: Steven Katovich, USDA Forest Service,




Boxelder Bugs

These colorful insects you may see in large numbers in your garden in late summer and fall are usually harmless to plants, but can be a nuisance if they gather in large numbers in the garden or on buildings. Called boxelder bugs because they like to gather on boxelder trees, a type of maple (Acer negundo). However, you will find them resting and feeding on many garden flowers and sometimes fruit that they can damage by piercing the skin. Otherwise, they are usually harmless.
They are most abundant during hot, dry summers and, like pine beetles and other insects that appear in cycles, some years they are more abundant than others.


Try Fall Snap Peas

One of the great things about gardening is creating your own challenge. Once you master the basics, you can attempt to stretch the limits. One quick and inexpensive ($4 for 200-300 pea seeds) stretch to try is sugar snap peas in the fall. While most folks plant them in February for an early spring harvest, it is possible to plant them for a fall harvest; but you have to nurse them through the heat first. Seeds don’t like the hot ground, so it is best to plant them indoors and transplant to the garden shortly after they sprout, or find a way to keep the soil cool if seeding directly into the ground. Then watch for mites that easily appear on the tender leaves during the dry weather in later summer and fall. The reward is a great crop of peas in October that will continue yielding until a hard freeze. The original 1979 All-America winner, Sugar Snap, is always delicious, but there are also newer and slightly more expensive varieties that mature about a week sooner and are a little more cold hardy. Sugar Ann is a much shorter vine (2-3 feet) that matures about a week earlier than Sugar Snap. Sugar Snap grows 5-6 feet tall and will need the same kind of vertical support you use for pole beans.


Trim Back Mint Plants

By clipping mint in containers regularly, it is easy to keep new, fresh leaves appearing all summer. However, if you don’t trim regularly, the stems can get woody and the plant produces just a few fresh leaves only at the very tips of the stems. If this has happened to your mint, trim the plant back and feed with a liquid food such as Bonnie’s Herb & Vegetable Plant Food. It will bounce back for fall.


Sensible Mosquito Control

To reduce mosquitoes in your yard, be sure there are no places where water can pool such as old buckets, toys, tarps, clogged gutters, and the obvious places such as birdbaths and plant saucers that stay full. If you have a still water feature, add a pump to keep water moving to prevent breeding. Or use an organic mosquito control such as Mosquito Dunks that kill mosquito larvae, but not other insects. Mosquito Dunks are safe for pets, too. Finally, try a fan blowing across the area where you sit. Mosquitoes are weak flyers and are easily blown away. They also prefer dark clothing; wear lighter colors when possible. If you need a personal repellent, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends products containing DEET, picaridin or the synthetic oil of lemon and eucalyptus are the most effective. Beware that wholesale spraying of pesticides around the yard may kill beneficial insects and bees visiting flowers in areas being sprayed. 

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