|August in Southern California: Slow and Easy
We're approaching the home stretch of the season. It's all about upkeep, with a little bit of fall planting for good measure. The focus this month is on watering, maintenance and protection against pests.
It's important to make your watering count, given that water restrictions are upon us. Here are some basics to remember:
- Water deeply and occasionally instead of shallow and often
- Do it in the early morning
- Focus on watering the soil, not the leaves
- Soak your containers/move them to shade
- Soak your compost heap and shade it to make the moisture last longer.
It's crucial that you inspect your irrigation system. Replace valves and drip emitters, flush filters, put a new backup battery in your timer system and check for leaks. If your system is outdated, call us at Hydro-Scape to learn about our water-saving irrigation systems.
Maintenance tasks are pretty straightforward this month.
- If you have sickly-looking annuals, now is the time to cull. Just pull 'em up and pitch 'em; at this point in the season, they're just wasting water.
- If your perennials are looking poorly, cut them back to a few inches; they'll come back healthier later this year or next.
- Hard prune your desert legume trees. Hydro-Scape offers a complete variety of quality pruners and tools.
- Trim your ornamental hedges.
- Prune water sprouts off your stone-fruit and citrus trees.
- Take the suckers off your wisteria vines.
- Prune your hydrangeas, leaving about three buds per stem for next season.
- Dig up old bearded irises, toss the woody centers and divide the rhizomes. Trim them to about six inches and replant them about one to two feet apart.
- Cut rust-ridden daylily foliage to the ground after they bloom. New foliage will come back rust-free.
- Deadhead daily for good looking flowers that will keep producing.
- Fertilize and feed your plants, including containers.
- August is the perfect time to evaluate your garden. Journal what worked and what didn't for use next year.
- Lawns may be suffering from fungus due to higher humidity levels. Use Bayer Fungus Control.
Plants are susceptible to spider mites, scale and thrips. You can treat them with an insecticidal soap to eliminate the pests. Grubs might cause brown patches in your lawn. Pull up these sections and check for beetle larvae. You can use beneficial parasitic nematodes to get rid of the grubs if you find any.
It's not just your plants that need protection; the Santa Ana winds and dry plants increase the risk of fire if you're in a fire-prone area. Get rid of all dead leaves and limbs, especially if they're near your home. Cut tall weeds and grasses to stubble; clean your gutters and get rid of all woody plants up against buildings. Review your evacuation plan with your family; if you don't have one, this is the perfect time to make one.
Plant - Yes, Plant
August is a good time to plant certain veggies and flowers. Carrots, in many varieties, do well now. They need a sunny bed - no problem in SoCal! - and you sow the seeds directly. Thin them to about 1.5 inches apart once the seedlings are a few inches tall.
Broccoli and its relatives are ready to roll, too. In coastal (zones 22-24), inland (zones 18-21) and high desert (zone 11), germinate broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, kale/collard/mustard greens and other Brassica seeds in flats. Keep them in partial shade, in consistently moist soil and transplant them when they're about four inches tall.
Bearded irises are tough, drought-tolerant plants, despite appearing so frail. August is the perfect time to plant rhizomes. Varieties like "Feedback", "Frequent Flyer", and "Summer Olympics" are excellent choices and have several bloom cycles each year.
It's also the perfect time to plant native desert shrubs and perennials. High humidity helps them to establish quickly, but they will need to be watered throughout the month.