Shady Way Gardens Bits and Briefs August 2001


August is the weary month, the month that separates the men from the boys of the plant world, especially if we have had no rain.  Flowers, veggies, herbs and any marginally surviving plants will struggle into August and then give up the ghost just when you think they'll make it 'til fall.  What can you do in the August garden?  General cleanup of seeding weeds and preparation of all planting beds is good.  Desert trees and shrubs can be planted with no problem as long as they are kept well-watered.  Just after being installed new plants will not receive enough water from a drip system.  For all plants but  especially trees build a well as wide as the branch tips, then get out there with a hose and fill the well with water, let it drain, then do it several more times.  Always extend wells out on established plants to encourage more extensive lateral root growth.  Of course, you should cut back on watering in heavy monsoon rains occur.

     All plants in a nursery get watered thoroughly every day and sometimes twice or more times during hot summer months.  In a few heartbeats you can turn your newly purchased or installed plants into a crispy critter if the rootball dries out.

     Don't do any major pruning yet, but you can lightly clip branch tips of Texas Sage, Cassia, Chuparosa, Ruellia, etc. to keep plants compact.  You can also cut back long branches of fast growing or top heavy Mesquites.  Remember to water Cactus, Agaves, Yuccas etc. particularly if they are yellow and shriveled.  Plant Squash seed in early August for one more crop before fall.


Mints blooming in shades of blue to white are attracting hosts of interesting butterflies and other insects.  Many people (except for 'herbies' of course) are unaware of the myriad of mint varieties to be had, and that they are very tough.  Leaves exhibit many shapes, sizes, flavors and scents.  There's Spearmint, Peppermint, Orange, Lime, Lemon, Lemon Bergamot, Chocolate, Swiss Ricola, Pineapple, Apple, Banana, Basil, Curly, Candy to name some.  Plants range from ground hugging, pungent Pennyroyal to 3 ft tall biblical Habeck Mint.  Especially in August it's nice to brush by a lush, redolent Mint and enjoy it's refreshing scent.  Because Mints produce underground runners they will quickly swallow up everything in their path if planted in a wet, shady area or at pond's edge.  Plant in containers to avoid this problem.


Whiteflies, a well known scourge of late summer and fall gardens, will begin to appear in their fluttery clouds from jostled leaves.  As with all plant pests, populations vary from year to year.  Some years the air is dense with these pests which are nearly impossible to annihilate as they infest both agricultural and native plants.  Daily hosing off of leaves, spraying with insecticidal soap or pyrethrums will temporarily reduce populations but insects will not disappear until cool weather.  Since whiteflies, like aphids, secrete honeydew, heavily infested plants have a black sooty mold (harmless to the plant) on the undersides of the leaves.


In response to rain or high humidity, Texas Sages (Leucophyllum sp.) often provide a welcome burst of color.  A staple item in the drought resistant landscape, these rugged shrubs are from the Chihuahuan desert areas of Texas and Mexico and belong to the snapdragon family.  The plain, old-time Texas Sage is naturally a large, rangy shrub with light purple flowers and gray leaves.  Now there are many other varieties and species of Leucophyllums available including Green Cloud Sage with green leaves and purple flowers, White Cloud  Sage with gray leaves and white flowers, Silver Cloud  Sage with whitish leaves and blue flowers, Heavenly Cloud  Sage with green leaves and bluish flowers, Chihuahuan Sage with green leaves and blue flowers, and quite a few others.  Most Leucophyllums can be kept compact by pinching back branch tips in spring and summer, or they can be sheared into hedges and other shapes if you like that look.  Once established, they are extremely drought tolerant and require very little maintenance.  

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Web Comments September 13, 2004 Shady Way Nursery 2004