For The Answer
By Calvin R. Finch, PhD,
SAWS Water Resources Director, and Horticulturist
Week of July 31, 2006
“August Gardening Tasks”
big news is the drought restrictions are in place in most communities in the
If you want to know the exact amount of water your lawn needs every week to stay green, sign up on the SAWS website at www.saws.org to receive a personalized SIP recommendation every week just before your watering day. You do not need to be a SAWS customer to receive the service.
In late August, apply a pre-emergent herbicide to prevent winter annual weeds like annual bluegrass, dandelions, rye, and bedstraw. Follow the instructions carefully in order to get a good response.
We are hesitant to do much planting in the midst of drought restrictions, but to perk up the yard with minimal effort, plant a batch of African hybrid marigolds early in the month. Seek sturdy plants that have not begun to bloom. Plant them 16 inches apart for a mass of yellow or gold color. Vincas are also a good bet. They are available in red, white, and lavender. They are very drought-tolerant and the deer do not eat them. Butterflies are attracted to both vinca and marigolds. Remember that vincas should be watered by drip or hose rather than sprinkler. As tough as they are they are susceptible to a disease called aerial phytophera. When water sets on the leaves, the fungus develops, and they mush down to nothing.
Early August is also the time to get your fall tomatoes in the ground. There are some Surefires on the market. For my money, they are the best fall tomato. They are reliable in the heat and mature fruit very quickly. Other good choices are Solar Pride, 444, Celebrity, and Sunmaster. Mulch the plants well and water every day for the first week to ten days.
Most trees and shrubs will survive the drought fine without supplemental irrigation. They evolved in this climate and the species have survived for eons without our intervention. The crowns will be thinner and there will be fewer blooms, but they will survive fine. The fewer blooms idea is not true for a few heat and dry weather lovers. Desert willow, esperanza, and poinciana shine in this type of weather. The esperanza is especially desirable because in addition to the spectacular yellow blooms, it is deer-resistant.
If you have a stressed tree or shrub, irrigate it with a soaker hose every month. Water deeply. Two hours of watering from a soaker hose turned one quarter turn penetrates the whole root zone and does not waste any water.
Keep the hummingbird feeders and bird baths clean and full of water. Because of the drought, the woodpeckers, house finches, and bees will want to take advantage of the sugar water. The hummingbirds will just have to learn to share.