The August Garden in Central Texas:
What am I doing in August in my garden? Well, that one is easy as most people know the number one priority is watering. Yes, even plants adapted to drought and heat must have water to get established. Once the root system is developed, then they don't need so much. My two best hints for efficient watering is mulch around the plants heavily, water late evening or early morning, and do not use a sprinkler. For awhile, I used soaker hoses with timers on them. The hoses soon developed large holes and didn't last more than one season. The timers failed more often than I could afford, letting water run all night. Now, I just put a hose in a flowerbed and let it run slowly while I go do something else. It soaks a large area just as well as the soaker hoses. I set a timer if I'm in the house, to remind me to go check it.
So for now, keep an eye on your newer plantings, or you might lose them in August. But August is also the time for preparing for the fall garden. You might not know that many plants are temperature sensitive for germination of seed, and also for bloom. When I first moved to Texas I planted a lot of flowering annuals I knew to do great in the heat. I watered and I fertilized, and they grew and grew and grew, but nothing bloomed! I got mad, and said that nothing would grow in Texas! Well, as soon as the weather cooled off, boom! Flowers enveloped the house, the yard, and the back fence. My poor cousin with whom I lived hasn't yet gotten over the experience. His house in the Temple subdivision where we lived was covered with blue morning glories, the yard taken over with yellow marigolds, red celosia that was six foot tall, and eggplants that I had to donate to an Indian restaurant because we couldn't eat them all. His proper little yard was a jungle and a riot of color. But I learned an important lesson. Texas has two gardening seasons. The first starts in February and lasts until June. The second starts in mid-September and lasts until the first hard frost in late November or the first of December.
So August is actually a kind of garden planning month the same as January is up north. Study your garden catalogs and order your perennial shrubs. Make sure you order them so that they arrive in late September and not before, or they might cook during shipment. Most nurseries have stuff on sale right now, but will close down in October if they are northern ones. Buy from southern nurseries that will ship when you dictate, or from California ones which understand our garden seasons here in Central Texas. Now is the time to prepare your beds for your new shrubs and perennials.
Now who in their right mind is going to be out digging up a new flowerbed in August in Texas? Well, I go about it the lazy man's way. Round-up is my friend. It is not harmful to soil micro-organisms, and does not hurt earthworms or remain as a residue in the soil. If you feel uncertain, research it. It's right there all on your family computer. Round-up and liquid Sevin are my two best gardening friends, and I don't feel like I am polluting the environment using them. Both products have been around for twenty years, with plenty of research to back up their safety. I pick out the area where I want to plant some roses and shrubs, and spray the area with Round-up, or some generic version of the same that has glyphosate as it's active ingredient. When the grass dies I plant directly into the sod, using the dead grass as a mulch. You can accomplish the same by laying black plastic where you want to kill the grass. It's just messier.
Fall is the time to plant irises, bulbs such as irises and lilies, rhizomes such as Siberian iris, shrubs and roses, and perennials such as Purple Coneflowers and Black-eyed Susan. Fall is also the time to plant fruit trees, any trees actually, and berries. These plants never really go completely dormant and will do better next season if they have already developed a good root system through the winter. Fall is also the time to plant cool season flowers such as sweet-peas, pansies, pinks, and snapdragons. It is much cheaper to sprout your own from seed, but they won't sprout except at 45-55 F. I have had good results sprouting these seed in egg cartons with potting soil in the refrigerator.
August is also the time to plant your fall blooming annuals such as marigolds and cosmos. These flowers will easily sprout in the heat and bloom vigorously up until the first hard frost and often will still be in full bloom at Thanksgiving. I like to use these flowers in place of chrysanthemums, for the colors are great for fall decoration. Well, August is a busy month for me, and I'm looking forward to the color of a fall garden in Central Texas. Don't forget to check your plants and shrubs for spidermites, as they really spread during dry heat. You'll know they are there by the little webs all over the plants newer growth. The only effective treatment for spidermites is to hose them off every other day with a hard water spray.