Ear to the Ground: The Insider Dirt to Gardening in Upstate NY

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

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