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Lifestyle

Plenty of gardening tasks to do as August arrives

Both annual and perennial herbs are easy to grow.
Both annual and perennial herbs are easy to grow.

As our lives continue to be impacted and restricted by the coronavirus pandemic, an interesting phenomenon is occurring. More people are turning or returning to gardening. Gardening is an outdoor activity that can be enjoyed by adults and children alike. It gives us a positive goal that can be fulfilled, relieves stress and anxiety, provides moderate intensity exercise and it is actually fun. No wonder gardening is experiencing a resurgence of popularity.

Tree and shrub care

Moist, warm air often provides a positive environment for an increase in plant disease and insect infestation. Be sure to check your trees and shrubs, especially newly planted ones, for these two problems. Hose aphids off of foliage. Japanese beetles can be knocked off of plants into a pan of soapy water. Mid-August should see Japanese beetles disappearing for the season.

Watch newly planted trees and shrubs for scorch due to hot temperatures and hot winds. Brown and crispy scorched leaves indicate a plant is in need of more water.

Annual and perennial care

Yellowed and dried stems from oriental lilies and daylilies can be carefully removed in August. If they do not pull easily, they can be cut off at ground level.

The monarch butterfly migration is currently being helped this year by the establishment of a “Floral Highway.” All along their migration route from Mexico to Canada, annuals and perennials have been planted to assist the monarch as they make their journey. You may already be helping if you have planted asters, beebalm, butterflyweed, coneflower, Joe-Pye weed, liatrus or milkweed this gardening season.

Lawn care

Mid to late August is an ideal time to seed lawn areas that are bare or thinning. Use grass seed appropriate to your site. Keep newly planted seed moist and covered with straw until seeds germinate.

If laying sod, purchase sod grown in your local area in similar soil conditions. Water deeply to encourage root growth. Allow grass to grow longer before mowing sod.

Fruit, vegetable and herb care

Apple trees need deep watering to achieve maximum fruit production.

Short-season snap beans, broccoli, cabbages, cauliflower, carrots, spinach and radishes can be planted in August for fall harvest.

The lower leaves of Brussels sprouts should be removed when buds form. This will create a taller plant with more sprouts. Sidedress plants with a balanced fertilizer when sprouts are marble sized.

Giant squash and zucchini should be avoided as they will have little flavor.

Monitor edible crops for disease and insects. Spraying of a strong fungicide or insecticide is not recommended on edible crops.

August tip

Often, not enough attention is paid to the growing of herbs. So here is some basic information for growing them successfully.

Both annual and perennial herbs are easy to grow. They prefer a full sun location, but there are a few that will tolerate partial shade. The addition of organic matter is suggested prior to planting.

Good drainage is essential especially with perennial herbs. The building of raised beds will help if drainage is poor. Annual herbs do best when kept moist.

Fertilize your herbs as you would your vegetable garden to encourage maximum growth and good flavor oils.

Herbs should be harvested when the oils responsible for their flavor and aroma are at their highest. Harvest herbs early in the day. Annual herbs can be cut back 50-75 % and still recover. Perennial herbs prefer that only about one-third be removed.

Enjoy your herbs as they enhance your salads and cooked meals.

• The Master Gardener Help Desk is closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Gardening questions can be emailed to uiemg-dekalb@illinois.edu.

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