August Landscape Activities
4 August 2008
Virginia Cooperative Extension, Charlottesville/Albemarle County Office
460 Stagecoach Road, Charlottesville, Virginia 22902
phone: 434.872.4580 fax: 434.872.4578
Many of us take our vacations at this time of year but August is also a month to prepare and repair our landscapes. From the lawn to the trees it is time to take a look around again to see how things are growing or not. Here are some things to consider for your spare time in the dog days of summer.
To maintain a healthy lawn and reduce the potential for ground and surface water contamination, it is important to fertilize at the right time and with the right amount. The best time to fertilize cool-season lawns (Kentucky bluegrass, fescue, and ryegrass) in Virginia is from August 15 through November. Fertilize warm-season grasses (bermudagrass and zoysiagrass) between April 1 and August 15. A soil test can tell you how much fertilizer and what kind of fertilizer to use.
Remember to keep your plants on a once a week watering schedule if the rain is not falling in sufficient amounts in your area. The stress of dry times can set plants up for a hard winter. Many plants, including camellias and rhododendrons, are starting buds for the blooms next year at this time. Immature berries of hollies and pyracantha may be dropped if the plants are water stressed.
If you irrigate your lawn, consider reducing overall lawn size to save water. For example, try joining trees into beds with shrubs and ground covers. Also, try to eliminate hard-to-irrigate lawn areas, such as narrow strips between a walkway and a building, or irregularly shaped areas.
It is not necessary to water an established lawn during the summer, as this is a natural dormant period for turf grass. If you must water your lawn during hot weather, it is best to do it early in the morning. Otherwise, much of the water will evaporate from the grass before the plants get to use it. To further avoid excess evaporation, use a sprinkler that produces large drops of water instead of a fine mist.
If you plan to do some landscape planting this fall, now is a good time to decide on the plants to use and how to arrange them. Since the average American family moves every five years, it makes sense to buy the largest plants you can afford and enjoy them now. If you are planning to stick around longer consider that smaller plants will often adapt to new surroundings quicker and grow faster in the short term than larger specimens of the same species.
Be sure to mow the lawn before going on vacation. If you will be gone over two weeks, arrange to have it cut while you are away. If you do not, too much of the top growth will be removed at the next mowing. Removal of more than 1/3 of the growth at one time weakens the plant.
If you wish to kill grass and weeds growing through cracks in patios, garden walks, or driveways, be extremely cautious. Many weed killers will leach into surrounding areas and damage your ornamentals or lawn. Pulling the weeds is the safest action, but you may wish to use a herbicide, such as those containing glyphosate. If you do, you might try painting it on weeds growing in areas where spraying is not possible.
Order peony roots now for planting in September. It is best to plant about a month before the average first frost date in your area. For most of us in the Piedmont region this is somewhere between October 19 and 29. Planting should be completed before the first killing frost occurs.
Mulched shrubs may not develop mature stem tissue where they touch the mulch. In addition, mulch can keep woody stems too moist, making them more susceptible to pests. To harden stems so they can withstand early frost damage and prevent pest problems, pull mulch back a couple inches from the base of stems and trunks.
Avoid deep cultivation around evergreens that have roots near the ground surface so roots are not damaged.
If azaleas look chlorotic (pale-green to yellow) check soil pH. They need acid soil because alkalinity locks up iron needed for green color. Something in the pH range of 3.7 to 5.5 is ideal. Sulfur reduces soil pH if you need something to amend your soil.
Clean up fallen rose and peony leaves. They can harbor disease and insect pests over the winter if allowed to remain on the ground.
You can root cuttings of woody shrubs and evergreens, such as azaleas, holly, and hydrangea, at this time of year.
Powdery mildew diseases attack a great many ornamentals, most often in late summer when the days are warm and nights cool. Some mildews, particularly those on roses, apples, and cherries, also are increased by high humidity. Prevention by proper cultural techniques is the first defense. Grow resistant varieties, space and prune plants to improve aeration and lessen shading, water early in the day and at the base rather than on leaves, and reduce nitrogen applications to avoid excessive late-season growth.
For more information about this and other landscape topics contact your local Virginia Cooperative Extension office. The local Virginia Cooperative Extension office numbers are Albemarle 872-4580, Fluvanna 591-1950, Greene 985-5236, Louisa 540-967-3422, and Nelson 263-4035.