Jan Beglinger

What to do in the garden in July & August

by cathym on July 15, 2021

Brugmansia in August

July and August are great for sitting, relaxing, and enjoying your garden. Do you have seats and benches in your garden? If not, find a comfortable spot to add one or two. It’s also a great time to take notes and yes, even start planning for next year. August, in particular, is a good time to observe and make notes. This could be on design/layout or expansion, reminders to relocate plants from one area to another (some of which could be done in the fall), new plants to try, problem areas to tackle, things that worked well that you want to repeat next year or things that didn’t and tools or supplies that you need.

Check out local garden tours! We love to see what other gardeners are doing. It’s a great way to spend a day and get new ideas for your own garden. Buffalo Garden Walk is July 24 and 25, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Check out Buffalo’s Open Gardens on Thursdays and Fridays in July or look for other weekend community garden tours. Listings can be found at gardensbuffaloniagara.com and in this issue’s calendar.

Now is a good time to be on the lookout for the dreaded jumping worms (Amynthas spp. & Metaphire spp.). These invasive worms are showing up in more gardens and landscapes across our region. Since they tend to stay in the top few inches of the soil or just below mulch, they are relatively easy to find. They especially love leaf litter and compost. They can also be in bulk mulch, bulk topsoil, and even nursery plants. Jumping worms alter the soil structure, making it look like coffee grounds, which deters plant growth. Unfortunately, there are currently no control methods to eliminate them from your garden other than collecting them, killing them, and putting them in the garbage. If you do have them, do your part to limit their spread. Don’t share plants. The cocoons are very small and can be transferred in soil. These worms  are annual, dying in the winter, but the cocoons overwinter ,hatching in the spring. By the end of June, they have matured and show the telltale white band near their head. If you do find jumping worms, you can and should report them to NY iMapInvasives at nyimapinvasives.org.

Be tick vigilant, even in your own garden. Ticks are becoming more prevalent across New York and since they can carry a variety of diseases it is imperative that we take precautions to avoid being bitten. Since finding a tick on myself last summer (after working in the garden) We wear our tick outfit whenever I’m in the garden. It’s not pretty, but it works. Wear light-colored clothes so it’s easier to see ticks. Tuck pants into tall socks and tuck your shirt into your pants. Wear shoes or boots, not sandals. This can help keep ticks away from your skin. Top it off with repellent head to toe. As a reminder, we keep a can of repellent by the door. Do a tick check when you come in. Ticks can be  very small, think poppy seeds to sesame seeds. That’s what you are looking for. Read and follow the label when using repellents as they are pesticides. For more information on ticks check out the “Don’t Get Ticked NY” website at nysipm.cornell.edu/whats-bugging-you/ticks.

It seems that every year now it’s not uncommon for an extended dry period. Maybe not a full-blown drought, but several weeks of little or no rain is the “new normal.” What can you do to make your yard and garden more drought tolerant? If you’re starting out, group plants together based on water needs. Keep plants that will need regular watering closer to the house. Use drought-tolerant perennials, shrubs, and trees farther out. Lawns need regular water to stay green. Reduce lawn areas that are not used frequently. Mulch around trees and shrubs and in gardens to help conserve soil moisture. You can even mulch your pots of annuals. Consider setting up a rain barrel or two. Water efficiently. Water plants deeply when you do, not shallowly every day.  Use soaker hoses or drip irrigation for efficient, deep watering  Eliminate weeds, as they also suck up water. You may have to pick your battles in a drough—water trees and shrubs as they would cost more to replace than annuals or even perennials.

Tomato growers—make sure your plants have consistent water as they set fruit. Blossom end rot is common during hot weather and infrequent rain. It can also affect peppers and eggplant. This is not a disease but rather a lack of calcium. Usually, the problem isn’t that you don’t have enough calcium in the soil, but that the soil is too dry for the plant to take it up. Consistent moisture is the key.

Plants in containers need regular fertilizing to maintain blooms as well as regular watering. Some containers may need water twice a day depending on size and location. Deadhead annuals to keep them blooming until frost.

Looking for a good summer read? We highly recommend Nature’s Best Hope by Douglas Tallamy. Tallamy is a professor at the University of Delaware in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology. He researches how plants that evolved elsewhere (nonnative) impact food webs and biodiversity. He is also a leading voice as to why we should plant more native plants in our gardens to support local biodiversity. No, you don’t have to give up your hostas and daylilies, but be more mindful of what you do add to your landscape. Nature’s Best Hope gives homeowners practical advice as to how their yard, no matter the size, can have a positive impact on pollinators, beneficial insects, butterflies, and birds. Get inspired!

—Jan Beglinger, Genesee County Master Gardener coordinator and Brandie Waite, Master Gardener volunteer


Almanac: July-August 2018

by cathym on July 2, 2018

Buddy the Boston terrier helping to move plants, Rush, NY.

The dog days of summer are upon us. Ever wonder where that expression came from? Is it because it’s too hot even for a dog to get up and run around? Not exactly. According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the dog days start July 3 and run for 40 days, ending August 11. This coincides with the rising of the Dog Star, Sirius. Regardless of how the saying started or where it came from, we all think of this time of year as hot and sultry. Consider doing your gardening chores first thing in the morning or in the cool of the evening rather than in the heat of the day.

Watering Needs
In the heat of the summer, monitor your new plantings for watering needs. A general rule of thumb is that plants need one inch of water per week. If Mother Nature does not provide it, you need to. Drip or trickle irrigation will deliver water directly to the root zone, which is great for vegetable plants. If they do not get adequate water, your vegetables will not develop normally. Try to water early in the day so the foliage has a chance to dry off by nightfall. Wet foliage can lead to disease issues. Using mulch will help maintain soil moisture and help keep weeds—which will steal moisture and nutrients from your plants—down. Avoid frequent, light watering. Instead, water deeply at wider intervals and let the water soak in. This will encourage new roots to grow deeper into the soil. Don’t forget to water trees and shrubs that have been planted in the last three years. They are still establishing their root systems. During periods of drought, street trees can also use a drink.

Daylily care during July
Peak bloom is usually during the month of July. Removing spent blooms (deadheading) daily keeps daylilies looking great. While deadheading, check for pests or diseases, and also remove any unsightly foliage. Once blooms are done you can remove the scapes for a nicer appearance. This is also a good time to make note of any daylilies that may need to be divided once they are done blooming or in the fall.

July and August is a good time to give houseplants a rest. Keep them watered and in a shady spot. Growth may slow down a bit as they rest. Tropical plants on the other hand need the sun but afternoon shade is always a nice respite for all plants. Water is a must along with good drainage. 

Many of our lawns are made up of Kentucky bluegrass, which is a cool-season plant. Hot, dry summers stress it out. Without rain or irrigation, it will go dormant and turn brown until more favorable conditions arrive in autumn. Mow grass one-half inch higher than usual during the summer months to help conserve soil moisture. Do not remove clippings from the lawn unless the grass is excessively tall or weedy. Clippings return some nutrients to the soil and do not add to thatch buildup. When watering lawns, you should apply one to one-and-a-half inches of water in a single application per week. Keep newly established lawn watered during dry weather. Allow water to penetrate deeply into the soil rather than watering frequently and lightly. Frequent, light sprinklings encourage roots to stay shallow, making them more susceptible to drought.

Annuals are great for color throughout the summer. To keep them flowering, deadhead spent flowers and pinch back lanky annuals to encourage new growth and more blossoms. Coleus flowers should also be removed. When watering add a bit of fertilizer, especially to container plantings. If you have annuals that are distorted or oddly colored they may be infected with a virus. To prevent viruses from spreading to healthy plants remove the infected ones and put them in the garbage, not the compost pile.

In the vegetable garden, this is prime harvest time. Pick ripe fruits and vegetables to encourage more production. Fertilize producing crops, but avoid too much on tomatoes. Late crops in the garden like squash and cucumbers need fertilizer to keep producing. Sweet corn could be showing signs of earworms so treat as necessary. Pinch out basil flowers to keep the plants producing foliage. As space becomes available plant seeds or seedlings of cool-weather, short-season crops like lettuce, radish and spinach that will mature before a hard frost.

Pest Problems
You may find yourself trying to outsmart the local wildlife this summer. Depending upon what types of fruits and vegetables you are growing, July and August can be a prime month for four legged pest problems. Rabbits enjoy salad greens and squirrels like tomatoes as much as we do, birds will devour your fruit, and deer may nibble on anything they find. You may need to erect a sturdy fence around your garden if you haven’t already. Bird netting can help deter birds from stealing your fruit before you can pick it.

Remain vigilant and continue pulling those weeds. Be ready to attack any weeds that plague your garden. Try not to let them go to seed! Don’t put weeds that have gone to seed in your compost pile. Unless your compost pile heats up, those seeds will survive only to cause problems next year.

Be on the lookout for the beginning of late blight in your tomatoes and potatoes. USABlight.org tracks confirmed cases of late blight. By checking the site you can track its progress from the southern states and take precautions when it makes it to New York. Late blight is considered to be a “community” disease and should not be ignored. Infected plants should be destroyed so that they do not continue to spread the disease. Fungicides need to be applied preventively for late blight. Chlorothalonil is the most effective conventional fungicide available to gardeners to help prevent plants from becoming infected. For organic production a copper fungicide is recommended. When using any pesticide always read and understand the label.

Take a walk around the garden and photograph it. Take photos from different sight lines. This can help you notice holes or sad plants that need replacement or a better location. It is also a great way to document the garden for future reference.

August is a great month to find bargain plants at nurseries and garden centers. Look for season extending plants to add to your garden for autumn awesomeness. Start planning for fall planting. Containerized plants are a safe bet if you keep them watered. August is also the “last call” if you are ordering spring flowering bulbs to plant in the garden or for forcing indoors. Get your orders in so your bulbs arrive at the proper time for fall planting.

Take advantage of all the garden tours going on as many of them are free. What better way to be inspired than to learn from other gardeners? Buffalo Garden Walk is July 28 and 29, from 10 am to 4 pm. Check out Open Gardens on Thursdays in July or look for other weekend community garden tours. Listings can be found at https://gardensbuffaloniagara.com/.

This summer sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Better yet, float in the pool!

—Jan Beglinger and the Genesee County Master Gardeners