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Have you ever done a "smell test" on plumeria flowers? Most plumeria flowers are very fragrant and some are downright intoxicating. Each flower can last for several days, whether on the plant or brought indoors and placed in water. To perform at their best, plumeria require regular applications of fertilizer and ample soil moisture. Photo by William M. Johnson

Gardening: August Calendar

by Dr. William M. Johnson, Galveston County Extension Agent - Horticulture

August 16, 2004

The summer season thus far has been interesting from a weather viewpoint. June was our wettest season on record both locally and statewide. We have not had any named storms to date in the Gulf of Mexico. The last week of July was marked by a cool front that provided daytime temperatures around 90 degrees for a brief - but very much appreciated - period.

But letís face it, August has arrived and the hot days of August can really test your devotion to landscape care. Working outside this month is not very pleasant, but some plants do need attention. So, carry an extra large glass of iced tea or water and make sure to wear a hat for protection from the sun.

The gardeners' calendar of activities for August includes the following:

- Many spring-flowering shrubs form next year's flower buds in late July and August. Our summer rainfall has been fairly ample thus far. However, if weather conditions during August revert to the dry side, low soil moisture can reduce both the quantity and quality of spring flowers. This is true of azaleas, camellias, and other similar plants and even peaches, pears and others. Don't allow them to suffer drought stress.

- Mid to late August is a good time to cut back your repeat blooming roses. Cut them back about 1/3 and fertilize them to improve their upcoming show of fall blossoms. Spray with fungicides such as Funginex to protect foliage from blackspot and powdery mildew which can significantly stress bushes during this important time of the season.

- Have you ever done a "smell test" on plumeria flowers? Most plumeria flowers are very fragrant and some are downright intoxicating. Each flower can last for several days, whether on the plant or brought indoors and placed in water. To perform at their best, plumeria require ample soil moisture. However, they do not tolerate "wet feet," so their root system must be provided with good soil drainage whether they are grown in containers aboveground, in containers sunk in the ground, or directly in the ground.

Plumeria are heavy feeders and will bloom and grow vigorously if provided the proper amount of soil nutrients. Plumeria enthusiasts recommend fertilizers that are low in nitrogen (the first number) and high in phosphorous (the middle number), such as "Super Bloom" or "Carl Pool's BR-61" or Peters "Super Blossom Booster 10-50-10." Other specialty plumeria fertilizers can be used as well. Plumeria growers typically fertilize at least every two weeks during the growing season.

- Keep berrying ornamental plants well-watered to prevent droppage of fruit and the absence of berries this winter on nandina, hollies and pyracantha. Berry droppage on these types of plants commonly results when the soil moisture level is low.

- If you'll remove the faded blooms of the colorful crape myrtle, this versatile plant will reward you with a second bloom. Flower buds are waiting to come forth if the gardener will simply prune out the old blooms or end shoots. This is also an ideal time to select crape myrtle varieties for the landscape while they are in bloom for planting now or later this fall. This popular small flowering tree is available in a number of exciting colors known by just as many exciting names. For example, there is the pale pink "Near East" variety, or the "Dixie Brilliant," a red, and the deep red "Fire Bird." The "New Snow" variety is a white, and "Pink Lace" is a clear pink, while "Twilight" is a deep purple.

- If you planted copper plants for fall color, be sure to pinch out the tips of branches to encourage branching and to develop bushy, compact plants.

- Gladiolus corms can be dug and cured as soon as the foliage turns brown. Store corms in dry peat moss or vermiculite within a paper bag or stocking.

- Check junipers and marigolds for spider mite infestations. The brown, discolored foliage may be due to spider mite feedings. To check for presence of spider mites, hold a sheet of white paper below a branch and tap the branch sharply. If the "dirt specks start to move," you can be fairly certain you have spider mites. Spider mites can be difficult to control with most general purpose sprays. Orthene and Isotox are recommended synthetic insecticides. For an organic alternative, neem oil and insecticidal soaps are recommended.

- To keep plants in hanging containers looking attractive, soak the baskets in a tub of water every week or so in addition to the regular watering schedule. This is a good time to also fertilize plants grown in hanging baskets.

August is full of long, slow and hot days, yet these are days demanding your gardening time, skills and endurance.

Go to July 17, 2004 article on scale insects and pampas grass. Go to August 1, 2004 article on bananas. Go to Section Links
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