August - What's in Katie's Garden?



In My Garden (Zone 7-8)

Katie Elzer-Peters
Katie Elzer-Peters is the author of Beginner's Illustrated Guide to Gardening, Carolinas Fruit and Vegetable Gardening, Southern Fruit and Vegetable Gardening, and many other vegetable gardening books. She lives in coastal North Carolina, where she enjoys four-season gardening. 

Breaking news: It’s still hot! And July was drier than a bone. We got occasional downpours, but not many days with soaking rain for several hours. Therefore my plants are stressed. Luckily my husband likes to water, so he’ll stand outside in a headlamp at night with a hose in one hand and his phone in the other, but all of that watering has leached any speck of nutrition out of the soil. We’re playing whack-a-mole trying to keep everything watered, fed, and mulched. It’s survival time.  

We had a huge blueberry crop this year. It’s time to feed the shrubs so they bounce back and give us another big harvest next year.  

For some reason or another I did not plant many annuals in the flower garden next to my sidewalk—the one that takes up half of the front yard—and I’m acutely feeling that right now. While I’m forced to inspect and enjoy the varying shades of green and textures of leaves in the bed, it’s a little boring, to be honest. I’m going to have to go big this fall. I’d better start making my viola, pansy, and snapdragon order now.  

Enjoy some greens

Large round leaves of farfugium contrast with the grasslike leaves of liriope.


Hosta leaves, solomon's seal, and toad lilies create a nice vignette of varying shades of green.

I planted tons of zinnias last summer and many of them self-sowed in the wildflower garden. I’m enjoying those blooms so much that I just ordered a bunch more seeds and will sow a round the first week of August that I’ll be able to enjoy in September and October.

Volunteer Zinnia plant.

Toad lilies are starting to bloom! I love these perennials. They look like exotic tropical orchids, but they’re plenty cold hardy. I collect different varieties. Some have variegated leaves, which add interest to the garden even when they’re not in bloom.

Toad lily in bloom

I placed a call to my friend who sometimes helps me weed and plant when I become overwhelmed and said “So. . .would you happened to know why I have three pink and two white crinum lilies in bloom in the back garden right now, because I don’t think I planted them.” “It’s possible that I brought them up and planted them there.” “Is that how the four-o-clocks ended up in the wildflower garden?” “Possibly,” she said.

It seems that my gardening buddy, who lives in a small house on a small lot down at the beach, has annexed my garden. Whenever she needs to dig up something from her yard to make room for a new plant she brings it up to mine and plants it. This has been going on for at least two, possibly three years. I’m not sure why I didn’t notice it before. It’s kind of funny, though. I have a garden of friends. Maybe we need to make a sign.




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Gardening Tip of the Day

  • If you plan to store winter squash and pumpkins for later use, go easy on applying nitrogen where they grow. And don’t heap on an extra shovelful of manure in late summer to increase fruit size. Too much nitrogen in the soil can reduce storability up to 75 percent. Allow squash and pumpkins to remain on the vine until leaves brown and stems wither. Cut off the vine, dry the harvest in the shade for a couple of days and finally wipe the fruits with a solution of household bleach and water. A half-cup of bleach mixed with a gallon of water will kill fungal spores that cause rot on fruit rinds. Store in a cool, dark place until ready to use.