Regional Gardening Guide - Zone 9-10
August 1 to August 30-- Discover what you should be doing right now. Our experts share gardening advice, techniques, news, and ideas to make your garden the best ever.
Here’s what’s happening in your gardening region:
Nobody really looks forward to gardening in August, (at least if you live in zones 9-10) but a little bit of summer prep-work will make gardening so much easier in fall. Now is the time to plan new beds and prepare planting sites by smothering the weeds and turf grass. Prepare existing beds for a fall garden by clearing out weeds and straggling plants, and consider covering them up with bags of mulch or manure to prevent weeds until it’s time to plant. Order warm-season veggie and flower seeds now and plant as soon as the beds are prepared. It might be the middle of summer, but it’s also the best time to kick off a new season of great gardening.
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Steve Asbell is an illustrator, the author of Plant by Numbers and blogger of The Rainforest Garden.
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1. Prepare Beds Ahead of Time
Plan and prepare your beds now so that they’ll be easier to plant when you’re ready. If you’re digging a new bed in St. Augustine grass, weaken the weeds and grasses first by smothering them over summer with layers of cardboard, newspaper or landscape fabric. If desired, you may also dig up the chunks of grass and turn them upside down before smothering them. Weigh the layers down with bags of composted manure, and empty them onto the bed along with compost when you’re ready to plant; be it in fall, winter or spring. If you’re using an existing garden bed, keep it weed-free and mulched until planting time. If existing plants are getting overrun with disease or pests, remove them immediately so that the problems won’t be passed on to next season’s plantings. When you’re ready to plant, spread a few inches of composted manure.
2. Order Warm Season Flower Seeds
If you haven’t done so already, order warm-season flowers to replace the struggling ones from last season. If you live in a frost-free part of zone 10, you can enjoy favorites like marigolds and begonias all winter long. Choose flower seeds with colors that won’t clash too harshly with the rest of the garden, and don’t be afraid to sketch out a rough plan. To make sure that each flower gets seen, use a tiered effect. Plant compact varieties at the front of beds, medium ones in the center, and taller ones toward the back. In larger beds, try to incorporate flowers with cool hues such as blue or purple in the back since cool colors appear to recede and give the bed an illusion of depth. Plant vining flowers such as morning glories and Thunbergia against supports such as trellises, or even from hanging baskets. Use warm-season annuals to temporarily fill in areas of your beds that have died back or haven’t quite matured.
3. Maintain Beds
Now might not be the most enjoyable or even most practical time to garden, but a little maintenance each week goes a long way. Continue harvesting hot-season veggies, and remove spent blooms of flowers to keep them going. You don’t have to pull all of the weeds, but pull them before they develop flowers and seeds or you’ll have even more weeds next year. If you’re pulling weeds with seeds attached, place them in a bin or large trash bag to keep them quarantined until they end up in the compost pile or garbage truck. Keep a close eye on the garden for any plants that seem to be struggling during dry spells. Well-established or drought-tolerant plants will likely bounce back, but newly planted ones can quickly disappear without a little help. Water plants with a hose to provide the right amount of water for the plants that need it.
4. Order Warm-Season Vegetable Seeds
If you don’t already have warm-season veggie seeds, what are you waiting for? Plant corn, eggplants, peppers, squashes and watermelons now so that they’ll have plenty of time to mature before the weather cools. Browse your favorite garden books and magazines to help you decide which seeds to plant, and head to the Burpee website to find unusual and superior varieties of the vegetables you know and love. If the sun is too intense where you’re planting, plant seedlings in containers and keep them in afternoon shade until they harden off and get used to the direct sunlight. You can also plant them in the shade of existing plantings such as hot peppers and okra. When ordering seeds, plan ahead and choose vegetables that you not only want to eat, but can accommodate in the garden. Pumpkins are fun and all, but they sure take up a lot of space.
5. Start Warm-Season Seeds
If you want to be the first one on your block with ripe tomatoes, squashes or cucumbers, plant seeds now. Plant them directly in the ground, in pots, trays or peat pellets, but whatever you do, keep the soil or seed-starting medium moist until they’ve hit their stride. Even a day or two of hot, dry weather can easily shrivel up your fragile little seedlings. If heavy rains are in the forecast, consider covering up the seedlings until they’re strong enough to weather the storm. Plant seeds in peat pellets, trays and pots to directly control your seedlings’ environment and keep them growing strong until they’re ready to transplant into the garden. Follow the directions on each packet to determine how deeply the seeds should be planted, and check to see if the seeds require direct sowing.