Helping your garden survive August
August is usually a difficult month in the garden. It can be very hot and dry, have an abundance of rain or face the possibility of hurricanes, which can create havoc in tandem with the above.
With rain comes growth and the potential problems of pests and diseases that, if not dealt with when first seen, can wreak havoc on foliage and flowers alike. On the obverse comes drought, which also has a downside to growth through the stress imposed by soil moisture deficiency. Pest and disease problems should be dealt with only when plants are not under stress as applications of pesticides and fungicides could also increase the stress factor by causing internal problems to the plant.
To overcome these problems, irrigate the garden heavily, if possible twice a week, to encourage roots to chase the water and retain their growth habit. The uptake of water will alleviate the stress within the plant when sprays for pest and disease problems are applied. It should also be noted that chemical spray applications should not be carried out when temperatures are higher than 65F, which limits spraying to evenings; avoid morning applications when skies are clear as the temperature will rise sharply.
Fertiliser applications can be applied as a foliar feed through a hose end applicator; however, always read the instructions on carton prior to applying, as details as to settings are important. Avoid granular feeding unless temperatures are low and weather is overcast and be sure that soil is moist to a depth of several inches to avoid root burn. Coated granular fertilisers are best as they have a slower release than non-granular types.
A review of foliage growth on trees and shrubs is advisable to determine whether a thinning out of heavily foliaged plants is required to reduce the impact of heavy winds allowing them to filter through the plant thus reducing damage to foliage and branches. This is especially the case with wet summers and the upsurge in growth. Large trees should be inspected by a professional tree surgeon especially so if work to remove boughs is required. Thin out by pruning crossing branches especially in the centre of the canopy; prune to an outward facing bud/node as this will help in the future habit of growth.
Lawns often suffer during periods of drought, I would suggest that in such cases as “bone dry” earth that no mowing should be carried out as it will further stress the lawn grass. Mowing in itself induces new growth, which in drought conditions further stresses the exercise of growth in general. If irrigation is required to keep grass active and survive, it should be carried out in the cool of the day; it is best to give two heavy soakings in a week than simply splashing water around with a hose. Shallow waterings will only encourage root activity in the upper areas of soil and thus put the root activity at risk of drying out, whereas when water is allowed to penetrate deeper into the soil the roots will chase it to its depth, acting as a lifeline to the lawn’s needs.
Herbicides are often used throughout the year for seasonal-type weed growth. This can be a problem during the heat of the summer especially when spray drift is likely even from the slightest of breezes. Best to be safe and avoid such activities, which can burn foliage and flowers, which themselves will be stressed by the existing conditions.
Weeding is a constant in any garden. During periods of drought, weeds will take up water from the soil that would best be used by the garden plants. Hoeing the ground to remove weed growth will expose a layer of topsoil that will dry out rapidly during the summer; try and encourage growth that covers the soil, reducing the light and potential weed growth.
• Malcolm Griffiths is a trained horticulturalist and fellow of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture in Britain. He is also past president of the Bermuda Horticultural Society, the Bermuda Orchid Society and the Bermuda Botanical Society