Does your garden look tired come August? Do this to wake it up

With some weeding, planting, feeding and pruning this month, the yard can look fresh again.

Believe it or not, August can be a busy month in the garden.

Watering, of course, is at the top of the list. It is important to remember that we can just as easily kill stuff by over-watering as we can by under-watering. Watering a plant just right is tricky and, if it is any consolation, even professionals like myself still manage to knock off a few plants now and then — especially when it is this hot.

Feeding is another important task for August, especially when temperatures are high and we are watering constantly. All that water washes out the nutrients from the root zone, and the plants are left hungry. This is not so important for shrubs and trees, but for our annuals, perennials and veggies, it is crucial to keep them fed during the summer or they will just peter out. Soluble fertilizers can be applied two to three times per week, while slow-release types may only need one application to last the summer. For vibrant colors and fabulous harvests, don’t skimp on the food.

August is actually a good time to do some pruning. Plants can be thinned and shaped, suckers and water sprouts removed, and hedges and vines reined in. Please don’t do any severe pruning when it is this hot, or you can sunburn the newly exposed interior branches of the shrubs. I always trim back my kiwi and wisteria in late July or early August.

Roses will continue to bloom as long as we keep dead heading and feeding them and, when necessary, controlling insects and diseases. Morning dew is always a warning sign to watch out for mildew. Catching it before it takes over will make your life a lot easier.

As for lawns, I continue to water and feed my lawn — but then, I only have about 500 square feet, so it’s not a big deal. If yours has gone by the wayside, you should be reassured that by the end of the month, the nights will be cooling down and, with a little water, the lawn will be waking up from its summer slumber. Late August and most of September are the ideal times to restore your lawn, so don’t miss out on this once-a-year opportunity.

I often spread another layer of mulch in my garden in August, for the simple reason that it smothers weeds, holds in moisture, insulates soil from the heat and releases some nutrients into the ground. Never skimp on compost.

After last week’s column on the importance of continuing to plant, I probably should have listed this first: Summer planting is easy as long as we get plenty of moisture down and around the root ball. The warm soils will accelerate the rooting process and, again with a little food, those new plants will take off like a rocket. There are so many summer-blooming perennials and even shrubs to choose from this time of year that there is no excuse for not finding something exciting to add to our gardens.

If your garden is looking tired, don’t give up. Put some effort in the weeding, planting, feeding and pruning departments, and your garden will get a whole new lease on life.

Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at

Dazzling Dahlias

Attend a free Dahlia Show showcasing the blooms of homegrown, local dahlias from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 11 at Sunnyside Nursery, 3915 Sunnyside Blvd., Marysville. For more information or to sign up, visit

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