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Updated August 16, 2012, 12:23 pm betterhomesgardens
August sees spring coming, despite the icy westerlies that usually blow at this time.
The main task this month is to plant, water and feed spring flowering annuals to ensure a spectacular display over the next few months. Keep beds well weeded or mulched, and ensure adequate water is given during this vital growing period.
August is also a good month to work on your soil. Hydrangeas indicate lime content: very pink means high lime. Another sign is yellow foliage, especially tips. In alkaline soil salt content is high and trace elements low. Sulphur or aluminium sulphate plus iron chelates help reduce alkalinity.
Plants which like acid conditions (like azaleas, camellias and heaths (ericas) do not grow well in alkaline soils, whereas lime-loving plants will adapt to acid.
Tip: Seasons differ a little from year to year and the wise gardener will make allowance for that.
Apply soluble fertiliser to blooming winter annuals such as cineraria, primroses, polyanthus, stock and poppies to get every last flower. Remove faded flowers regularly too for more bloom.
Feed developing spring annuals and pinch out growing tips to force side growth. Divide any overgrown perennial plants. Work plenty of compost, decayed manure and a little complete fertiliser into planting area. Lime a carnation bed, one handful per square metre. Build up the soil next month.
In cold zones, Chrysanthemums will be in vigorous growth shortly; strike from cuttings now and plant out in beds in September-October.
In cold zones, prune roses until month's end then spray with fungicide to help control black spot and other fungal diseases. Burn all rose prunings to kill disease spores and pests. Stake and tie young standard roses and test that climbing roses' supports are adequate. Work in topdressing of well-composted manure around all roses.
Main tasks are feeding and pruning. Give camellias a complete fertiliser after flowering.
Feed hydrangeas a blueing compound or 120g of aluminium in water every three weeks until flowering buds appear. Pink hydrangeas are a sign of lime in the soil.
Feed fuchsias fortnightly and trim back by two-thirds of previous season's growth even though losing flower buds. Close pruning can lead to dieback so cut 6 mm above nodes. Remove any dead or weak growth. Use some prunings as cuttings.
Pick daphne blooms freely to prune. New shoots develop from bare wood. Feed with a special fertiliser for acid-loving plants and mulch as for camellias. Prune heliotrope, hypericum, lasiandra, oleander and poinsettia after flowering. Do not prune frost-damaged plants until severe cold has passed.
Water azaleas regularly as spring blooms appear. Water at roots; wet flowers spread petal blight. Prune fragrant, pink, winter flowering evergreen luculia as soon as blooms fade. Trim back beloperone (drejerella).
In tropical zones, loosen topsoil and fertilise gardenias. Prune any dead wood and they should flower November-December. If blossom drop is seen, apply magnesium sulphate. Shape native plants after flowering, removing old dead wood. Lightly scatter granulated lawn fertiliser around them at six-weekly intervals.
In cold zones, Azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias need a topdressing of peat, leaf-mould and pea-straw. Do not damage their sur-face roots while digging.
Fertilise all bulbs no longer flowering.
In cold zones, many spring flowering bulbs will be blooming or showing through soil and need a light dressing of potash to strengthen flower stems. Iris often look bedraggled now. Remove dead foliage and apply superphosphate plus a little potash.
Prepare for the coming lawn growing and mowing season. Dig over new areas to be sown with grass to a depth of 15 cm. Remove any rubble and roots of perennial weeds. Into heavy or highly acid soils, rake lime, one cup per square metre. Leave for weeds to germinate; hoe them off. This brings the surface to fine tilth in six weeks.
Eradicate that enemy of bare feet, bindii, before month's end when it sets its prickly seed. Spread lawn food to get grass off to best possible start.
In tropical zones, set mower height at 8-9mm to cope with spring growth. Apply fertiliser lightly to lawns, mixing it 50-50 with dry sand for even spreading.
In cold zones, lawns with little or no clover need sulphate of ammonia or calcium ammonium nitrate to heighten colour and suppress weeds. Leave frost-damaged lawns of couch, buffalo or kikuyu until spring growth appears.
Feed all types of citrus with packaged citrus food or complete plant food. Water before and after feeding. Follow dosage rates strictly and don't scatter fertiliser over soil: drill holes about 15 cm deep into the ground under foliage canopy in concentric rings and fill with fertiliser (a dozen holes for a mature tree). Water steadily for several hours.
Citrus in tubs should be treated in the same way except that four or five holes are sufficient; no more than half a cup of fertiliser should be used. Potted citrus also require trace elements as these are washed out by frequent watering.
Tip: scarred citrus fruit is caused by wind rubbing, so provide a windbreak; dry-looking branches and leaves show it needs a good deep soaking at least 500L weekly. Do not let fertilisers touch trunk or bud union, don't apply on dry ground; add magnesium (epsom salts) for yellowing leaves; if skins are thick, reduce stable manure and sulphate of ammonia.
Fertilise strawberries with liquid fertiliser every two weeks. Water daily and pick daily, checking for signs of grey mould and discarding any infected fruit in the rubbish bin. After the initial crop cut all tops right back leaving only one or two leaves - you will get a second crop of fruit. When melons begin to set, cut back watering to only 1-2 days a week to stop rot and splitting.
In cold zones, prune grapes later this month. Burn prunings if you suspect disease.
Start preparing the vegetable garden. Dig in well-rotted animal manure, composted organic material and blood and bone. The more time spent preparing the soil,
the better the results.
Rotate vegetable crops. Divide crops into three groups: one with manure only, one with manure and compost and another with lime or dolomite and compost. Rotate yearly for best results.
Old clumps of herbs may be lifted, divided and replanted. Check new shoots of bulbs when weeding, and put snailbait around young seedlings and bulbs.
1. Spray azalea petal blight. Keep azaleas well watered from now until end of flowering but do not water foliage; this spreads petal blight.
2. Peaches and nectarines get leaf-curl disease which blisters and distorts leaves. Spray with copper oxychloride as soon as flower buds swell. Once buds have reached `pink bud' stage it is too late. Spray all stone fruit at 'pink bud' stage against brown rot, freckle and shot hole.
3. Eradicate moss from lawns by treating each square metre with 30g of sulphate of iron dissolved in 4.5 litres of water. After 10 days rake off dead moss. Repeat if necessary. Spiking the lawn with a garden fork for aeration; improved drainage; regular fertilising and removal of over-hanging branches all help keep lawns moss-free.
4. Oxalis, 'pretty' little yellow flowers, seem almost indestructible. Learn to love them or use a selective weedicide. Spray or paint on (with extreme caution) on a still day when flowers are full. Keep it away from other plants.
5. Protect new rose growth from aphids. Snails and slugs are very active in the agapanthus, saxifraga, Iris stylosa and clivea. Spray cinerarias and marguerites for leaf miner. Remove snails and slugs on vegetables by hand.In tropical zones
1. Watch for leaf miner and gall wasp on citrus. Drastic treatment will rid garden of gall wasp. Eggs are laid in pencil-thick, young wood, and grubs eat their way inside. The first sign is thickening stem wood. As grub enlarges his dwelling-place, the gall grows large, until wasp is ready to emerge, usually between mid-September until end of October. Cut off the twig containing gall or destroy immature galls by gently scraping side of sappy gall so that air can enter. Gall will very soon dry off.
2. Increased scale activity comes from warmer weather. Hibiscus may become distorted at growing points if scale is not controlled. Use white oil. Watch unopened gardenia buds for hawk moth caterpillars.Source:Successful Gardening Month by Month (Murdoch Books)