Shady Way Gardens Bits and Briefs August 2002
 

AUGUST

August in the desert is replete with negatives - one of which is the gardening blahs!  If you can't go up north, you probably just want to stay inside where the air is conditioned to your comfort.  Many newly planted trees, especially those with big leaves like Ash, Ficus, Mulberry, Citrus and other Fruit Trees look like we feel - kinda worn out, yellow and scorched.  Just keep watering them and wait to fertilize until temperatures moderate, probably in September.  Many of the more desert adapted of plants actually look quite spiffy in August especially Texas Sages, Birds-of-Paradise, Mesquites, Acacias and the like.  If you do feel ambitious, you can lightly trim these types of plants now as long as no main branches are exposed to full sun.  It's also a fine time to install most desert trees and shrubs.  Wait till cooler weather to plant Penstemons.  A late crop of Squash, Black Eyed Peas and Corn can be had if you plant seeds soon.  Plants of Tomatoes and Peppers can be put in later in the month.  Hot Chile Peppers can be planted anytime.  Summer flowers such as Lisianthus, Vinca, Gomphrena, etc, planted now will give good color through October and possibly into November if temperatures stay up.

ANTS

...from where do they cometh?? whereunto do they goeth??  The second part is easy.  They goeth to any pet food (inside or outside), any human food (inside or outside) and especially any feet (inside or outside).  And this summer it seems like they cometh from everywhere.  Millions of them!  Fascinating creatures though they are if your gardening or other activities disrupt their comfort, they'll really disrupt yours with a barrage of vengeful bites.  "OUCH!! You little demons!"  you sputter.  At the same time, though, they're sputtering about the big demon.  The little black ones seem to be the worst, coming out of nowhere to swarm in shoes and pant legs to latch onto exposed flesh.

Noted for their proverbial industry, ants are also noted for their difficulty to be controlled.  One hates to spread chemical poisons over the large areas they occupy and baits don't always attract them since their nutritional needs may change throughout the year.  Some people have reported deterring ants by brewing a Citrus peel tea and pouring it around their nests.  We put Grapefruit peels all around some of our nests.  Checking back the next day, we found the ants in a great frenzy - a happy one - as they tunneled into the flesh, wriggling their little antennae in appreciation of the delicious treat!

There's a whole world of ants out there, and knowing some of their amazing life strategies you almost hate to slaughter them just for your own comfort.  Harvester ants which are active in late summer collect seeds which they convert into food in elaborate underground nests.  Some ants nurture scale insects and aphids (the ant's cow) by moving them to appropriate plants so they can eat the honeydew they secrete.  Leaf Cutter Ants harvest plant parts to use in their underground fungus gardens.  These have such nice big jaws that Native Americans were purported to close wounds by placing them at the edges, then cutting off the body after the mandibles closed!  Anyway, if you can't stand August gardening, you can always amuse yourself with watching your ants.  If you're young enough you might even decide to become a myrmecologist.  There's probably no money in this unless, of course, you invent a friendly way to annihilate the very things you've chosen to study.

ROSEMARY-UPDATES

Last month, we forgot to mention an important thing about Rosemary.   Folklore, or in this case, an old wive's tale is that Rosemary prospers only where the mistress of the house is master.  Men, shoulder your shovels!  Old wives, watch over your Rosemary.

Hey, native plant people.  How about a Hoary Rosemary MInt in your yard?  Also called Hopi Tea(Poliomintha incana), it's a friendly shrub with thin silvery leaves, pale blue flowers and delicious minty fragrance.  It's drought tolerant and frost hardy, growing to 4ft tall and 6ft wide.  Light trimming will keep it compact.  Hopi Indians reportedly ate fresh or boiled leaves.  Flowers can be used for seasoning.

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Web Comments george@mswn.com September 13, 2004 Shady Way Nursery 2004