Gardening Tips for the Texas Coastal Bend in August

By Kitty Angell 
Aransas/San Patricio County Master Gardener

Well, here we are, living through that hot period of summer that we always dread! August begins the stage of summer that is most stressful on our lawns. There is a one-two punch happening to lawns at this time, including heat, lack of rain, insect infestation (above and below the ground), and fungus problems.

Chrysanthemum Country Girl

Because of this, there are several primary tasks you need to accomplish during the month. Included in the basics are: Mow Tall! Setting your mower blade on the highest level is more important than ever because the heat beats down on your turf and dries it out quickly, even if you water. If you keep the lawn tall, it will shade the root system and keep the moisture in.

Water deeply and regularly! You need to water until the top 6 to 8 inches of soil is moist. Repeat once a week or more often if you have sandy soil. Remember that St. Augustine should be watered when you walk across it and it leaves discernable footprints.

Red Sails Lettuce

Aerate your lawn to reduce compaction and introduce air to the soil. This will reduce excess thatch built up between the soil and the grass. However, you do not need to de-thatch your lawn if less than ½ inch of thatch has accumulated.

Your shadow becomes your most important ally when it comes to protecting your lawn and garden. That would be you, looking over the turf and plants to see if pests, fungus, or other garden interlopers have begun to affect all your hard work.

The vegetable garden is giving you a nice summer harvest. Do not pick vegetables during the middle/hottest part of the day. The vegetables become soft at that time and bruise any place where they are touched. It is better to harvest early in the morning or late afternoon/evening. Also, this is the time to begin sowing seeds for fall transplants. By starting now, you can have lettuce, flowering cabbage, cauliflower, flowering kale, broccoli, collards, Swiss chard, cabbage, and Chinese cabbage.
Seeded vegetables are tricky to get up in the heat of summer. The soil will often form a crust on the surface after tillage and watering. This “crust” can hinder tender seedlings from breaking through. Before sowing, use your garden hose to thoroughly soak the bottom of the seed furrow with water. Then sow the seed. Finally, cover the seed to the proper depth with dry soil and firm. The seed should stay moist enough until germination. The best advice is to avoid overhead watering and use a ground soaker system instead.

Set out transplants of fall crops such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. Be sure to provide late afternoon shade for best results. Starting fall transplants is easier because the soil is not as cool as it is in the spring, so there is not much “damping-off” disease.

Houseplants need more water during the hot month of August, especially if they are near a sunny window. You may want to consider “bumping up” some of your root-bound houseplants into bigger pots. By the end of the month start selecting potted plants of perennials such as Autumn Asters, chrysanthemums, and ornamental salvias for excellent fall color. Once they have bloomed, make them permanent occupants of the flower bed. They will be capable of extended fall color for several years.

Prune back vigorous climbers and train them around trellises while the growth is soft. The time has also come to divide spring-flowering perennials, such as amaryllis, crinum, iris, Shasta daisy, oxeye, gaillardia, cannas, day lilies, violets, liriope, and ajuga. Plant bluebonnets and other spring wildflowers this month. They must germinate in late summer or early fall to develop good root systems, and be ready to grow when the weather warms. Plant the seeds in well-prepared soil, one-half inch deep, and water thoroughly.

A late-summer pruning of rose bushes is recommended. Inspect the bushes thoroughly and prune out dead canes and any weak, brushy growth. Cut back tall, vigorous bushes to about thirty inches. After you prune, fertilize and water well. If a preventative disease-control program has been maintained, your rose bushes should be read to provide an excellent crop of flowers this fall!

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