Top Projects for August
So little time to enjoy the yard June and July are not as hot so we spend time in the Garden. August can be very hot and humid that we do not want to go outside to enjoy the garden, however there are a lot of chores that we must do in our gardens or all of our earlier efforts will end up dry and uglyyyyyyyyyyy. So get up early in the morning and get busy.
You spent a lot of time and money this spring to get your yard of the month award and now things are beginning to wilt, so now if you only have time to do one thing that should be watering. All the experts agree on one thing. The soils need one inch or more of watering once a week, in the South that could be more often. The suns heats can be brutal on any plant or grass so be aware of your plants needs. There are test that you can do or learn to look for signs on the foliage of the plants. St. Augustine Grass is easily checked, just walk over the lawn and see if the blades spring back to an upright position. If so then there is plenty of moisture in the grass. Now, check the annual color, are the leaves wilted? If not then check the soil around the foundation of the house. Do Not forget to water the foundation. Houses with large trees planted near the foundation need more watering to prevent the trees from sucking up the moisture from under the foundation. It is said that a Silver Leaf Maple can uptake 30,000 gallons of water in one day. Imagine what could happen to your foundation if there is no moisture there. Craaaaaack, shiiiiiift, creeeeeek. More about this later. If you are one of those who feels like you should have hanging baskets, a-hanging, water daily, use Solid Water from Green Sense in the baskets and potted plants. Check to be sure that they do need water and then water thoroughly. I would add Foliar Juice or Kelp each time. Add some Apple Cider Vinegar to help prevent any fungi. If it were me I would place the hanging baskets on the ground during the day when I am not home or until I have guest coming over.
To give yourself time for other garden activities replace your mulch. What mulch you say? Oh, I forgot that not everyone has a three inch layer of mulch over their beds. Drive over to your nearest nursery and load your car up with as much mulch as you can stuff your car with. Do not use pine bark mulch, that stuff is cheap, but when we start getting rain again it will float away. Use a good mulch like Hardwood, Cedar or Cypress. Be sure that you get shredded mulch. These shredded mulches will interlock so that heavy winds or rains will not wash them away. I use Pine Straw at my house I like the long needles and the fact that as they break down they help acidify the soil.
As the weather gets warmer and the garden is watered more there is a likelihood that weed seeds will germinate faster. Take time to keep the weeds cultivated out of all parts of the garden. Since weeds are hosts to many insects and diseases it is important to keep them under control, so pests and diseases do not infest your other garden plants.
The Vegetable Garden
You have spent a lot of time and effort trying to get fruit from that dam garden, don’t let it die in you now. Pay special attention to the garden. Get soaker hoses, such as the Leaky Hose™ While you are at the hardware store get a battery operated timer that will let you water early in the morning. These timers hook up to the faucet and let the water through as an automatic system would. Water making sure to water thoroughly, so you wont have to water as often. Start looking for your vegetable transplants for you fall garden. Some people cut back their tomatoes and apply a heavy dosage of Kelp or seaweed, Cottonseed meal and Alfalfa Meal hopping that this will rejuvenate their tomatoes and produce a fall crop. Try it this fall and see how they do. If birds got more of your tomatoes then you did, try growing some yellow varieties. Birds won't know when they're ripe and won't eat as many. Carrots, beets, lettuce, spinach, radishes, and over-wintering cauliflower are the most popular vegetables to grow in the winter garden.
These plants can be started from seed sown directly into the garden this month or next. The spring flowering perennials can be divided and transplanted this month or next. Be sure to do it during the coolest part of the day and water—in the plants thoroughly after transplanting. Take a few minutes to pick spent and dead flowers on annuals and perennials, this will make a big difference in the health of the plant. As soon as most plant goes to seed, it will quit producing more flowers, by removing the spent flowers plants will flower longer. The garden also looks better without the spent blooms.
In late August plant fall chrysanthemums. They will begin to late September. Look for a lot of buds on the plants. Make sure that they are still tight and not about to open yet. Apply Kelp at time of planting and once a week thereafter.
Take time to examine the garden on a weekly basis to see if any bugs are ruining flowers or shrubs. Don’t call your local nursery for help over the phone bring in samples so that they can see what is causing the problem and recommend the appropriate steps correct the problem.
More problem solving with all the rain we have had many customers have been coming into buy Soil Drench to kill their fire ant mounds. One customer called back later in the day. From the sound of his voice I knew that he had done something terrible. In the morning after one of our recent thunderstorms he had gone out to get the newspaper when he saw about a hundred mounds had popped up in his lawn. Fire Ant mounds he presumed. This guy was not, named Sherlock. He ended up drenching about four mounds before he had to go and make another solution of the product. On his way back he saw that he had drenched: Earthworm mounds and now there were 50 or 60 worms wiggling out of their mounds. The citrus oil was burning them up. Earthworm mounds are that mounds of soil in that make it hard to mow, and are randomly spaced. And never in a straight line. These mounds are usually created by Night crawlers. These large worms burrow vertically, pulling plant material into their tunnels. The leftover dirt on top of the ground is a "midden." A residual of worm castings (caca in blunt english) and plants. These tunnels help aerate the lawn permitting water, air and roots to enter. Do not disturb these mounds. There is a Golf Club off of LBJ Freeway near the Dallas/Mesquite border that sprayed an insecticide last month to kill the earthworms that had burrowed up on to the course and disturbed the golfers game. Shame, shame, shame!
We had one customer bring in a branch from her rose bush, the leaves looked like they had been burnt by a fire. My first though was that the bush got way to dry, but we have had so much rain that I knew this was not the cause. "Was there a fire near by?" I asked. And then it dawned on me: Fireblight . This disease affects a wide range of plants in the rose family. Pyracntha, Indian Hawthorn, Cotoneaster Photenia are some shrubs that are affected. Trees such as Apple, Pear, (this inclueds Bradford Pears) and Crab Apples. Normally you will see the disease in the spring when blossoms become water-soaked and turn dark-green or brown. At this time you can see yellow slime leaking from infected plants. This slime carries the disease within the plant and can kill the plant almost overnight. On trees you can see a darker color on the trunk. This area is softer and feels like it has water in it. If you peel the bark away you will see a reddish color on the tissue. The disease is spread by water, insects and pruning devices.
Do not trim the above mentioned plants without disinfecting your tools in a 10% bleach solution (one part bleach to nine parts water). Since bleach is corrosive, you must clean your so pruning tools should be washed and oiled after use. If you notice symptoms of Fireblight pruning should be done six to eight inches below the discolored bark or burnt foliage. Never prune during wet weather.
Do not go from plant to plant without cleaning your tools.
Do not create a mono-culture with the above mentioned plants. This means that I do not want you to plant groupings of the same plant in one area. EVER!
Do not re-plant, plants of same family in areas where you had Fireblight before. We have one particular customer whom we have maintained his landscape for 20 years now. His lawn is pretty much insect free, but every year we get a call from him about this time of the year. "Greg, I am going to put a sign up in front of my Juniper that says "This Plant is organically maintained by Rohde’s." Every year I go out to his yard with my crew leader and show him: Bagworms. These pest are less then a quarter inch long when born. But as they feed they start to make silk bags that they carry whit them wherever they go. They normally feed on the plant that they were born on, but since they are so small they can also be carried by wind to other plants. As they start to enlarge they will add little pieces of leaves to their bags to be used as camoflodge, at this point they become visible to the naked eye as they start to hang off of the host plant. Around August, bagworms start to reach adulthood. As an adult the male moth is gray and small, has clear-winged and resembles a wasp. The female has no wings or legs and never leaves the bag. The males mate with the female through a hole in the bag entrance. The female dies after laying her eggs. These eggs over winter in the bag. Bagworms grow on Junipers on and arbovaite plants.
Do not wait to spray a product that contains BT Kurstaki. I keep telling Blas, the crew leader that maintains my customers lawns, that since BT K is effective only against worms from moths and butterflies, spray early in the year and reapply monthly. When these bagworms become visible pick them off by hand.
Do not apply BT K once the bagworm has enclosed itself in the cocoon since it is no longer feeding.
The Haunted House
When I moved in to my house last August, I heard rumors from several people that our neighborhood, particularly that our street was haunted. A couple of houses down the block, one of our neighbors had committed suicide and did not leave a note. People said that he seemed unhappy for a long time before his death. In the last several years a house on the cul de sac had caught on fire and was nearly destroyed. One of my neighbors said that things have not been the same since.
"Why just the other day, you, moved into the neighborhood," he said. With the creek running nearby, some kids have told my son that there had been bodies found all up and down the banks. Some teenagers told Victor that there were witches in the area and that they had found evidence of witchcraft in our neighborhood. They told Victor to not let the dog out of his sight or the witches would sacrifice him.
When I found out about this I asked Alfred if he needed to go potty and as we walked towards the door, Sandra came and grabbed Alfred in her arms to make sure I wouldn’t take him out. Take him out… Get it?
I could say that the witches must have snatched him. Of course, I never believed any of this, but when my son kept coming home with new stories I was beginning to wish that I had heard all of these rumors before I moved into the house.
I noticed that Sandra, my wife, would not let our ferocious dog, Alfred, out to do his business unless some one went with him. Even though we closed on the house in July, we had not planned to move into the house until the end of August in hopes that we would be able to get some repairs done and repaint all of the rooms, but one of the air conditioner units at our old house quit working and would not be repaired until after the weekend.
Unless you forgot last year, ’98, we had a verrrrry hot summer and we did not want to stay in the house with just one a/c unit working. We already had everything ready for shipping, so we moved.
With all the activity going on in the house, hardwood floors being installed, painting of the bedrooms, etc. there was always a lot of noise. By the end of the day I was so tired I would fall asleep as soon as I touched the bed. One night, not much after things calmed down, our dog Alfred, who slept on my bed between me and my wife, barked loudly.
Startled, well, scared I jumped up quickly and looked around the room. I did not see anyone, so I got up and walked around the house. When I was at the far end of the house Alfred barked again. I ran back to the room where I found Sandra sitting upright.
"What’s going on?" she asked.
"I don’t know, your dog started to bark, but I haven’t seen anyone inside or in the yard. The kids are asleep. Alfred go back to sleep," I scolded.
A few nights passed without incident.
It was about 4:30 am. I started to wake up when I heard Alfred growl. The a/c was not running, the TV was off and I heard a sound…… it came crack, craaaaak, creeeeek. Alfred barked.
"Shhhhhh", I said as I layed in bed eyes wide open. Who was in the house, I wondered. I woke Sandra up.
"Sandra go see who is in the hall."
"No", she said, "you go, you are the man of the house."
"What?" I questioned. I wasn’t questioning my manhood, for I knew that I was the man of the house, I was trying to say I went last time, it is your turn, but she wouldn’t let me.
As I was beginning to think that the house was haunted I heard it again. Crack, craaaaak, creeeeek. I swear it was Sandra that screamed, even though she denies it, and always tells this story saying that I was the screamer.
We got up to look around, and as I walked around the house, pushing Sandra ahead of me, we went from room to room, and found nothing.
As I laid in bed I heard the noise again. I was able to realize that the noise was actually in the room, Alfred growled and the noise went away. That evening as I settled into bed, I wished that I could clap my hand and turn off the ceiling light, when I noticed a crack in the ceiling.
"Sandra," I called out. As she came into the room I pointed out the crack in the corner of the room asking her if she had noticed it before.
"No," she said.
"Oh. Ok. Can you turn the light off as you leave, please", I asked.
"Is that what you called me in here for, You didn’t want to show me that crack you just wanted me to turn off the light, I can’t believe you called me in for that", she naggggggged. She was still complaining as she left the room.
"The light," I screamed "The light." As I got up to turn the light off I noticed another crack in the ceiling. I have a customer who is in the foundation repair business. I called him up and started asking him questions about my house, the creaking noises at night and the cracked ceiling. I told him that the house was next to the creek and that there was about a 30 foot drop from the edge of the house to the bottom of the creek. It was not a steep angle, maybe 25 to 30 degrees and there were two retaining walls to help hold the soil in place.
He told me that he would be glad to come out to the house and take a "looksee." A "looksee"? Ha-ha! When he came out the first thing he did was to "looksee" around the foundation. He immediately pointed out the separation that occurred between the foundation and the soil. He then walked down to the first retaining wall and pointed out the dry ground around the wall. Boy, was I feeling embarrassed. For years I have always preached the importance of watering around the foundation. My only excuse was that I had just had the foundation inspected and I figured that I did not have to water more then my normal five to seven day interval.
Even though the grade around the house is level for the first 10 feet, the slope beyond that causes the water to run away from the foundation fairly quickly. And to make things worse, this side of the house faces West.
As we walked around the rest of the house, it was pointed out that the soil seemed to hold more moisture as we walked to the north side of the house, the east side was perfect. The backyard faces due south and has a lot of concrete because of the swimming pool decking. At this time everything appeared to be holding it’s ground.
Ha-ha! I think I already told you about this last year. After we walked around the outside, I was told that the foundation seemed to be in good shape. There were no cracked bricks, none of the brick columns had shifted and the patios showed no separation from the house.
We went into the house and did another "looksee." As he went from room to room, he kept saying, "good, good."
And then we went into my room, where he said: "Not bad, not bad." He pointed out that the cracks were all in the corners of the ceilings. No cracks in the walls or in the ceiling itself. He seemed pleased as he told me that my only fault was to have lapsed on the watering. He asked me if I knew what polymers were. I told him that we sold some at the store and that I had just put some out in the lawn after aerating. He suggested that I put some out around the foundation and to go buy a soaker hose.
I already had one but did not have it in place yet. Duh! I have since put out three pounds of polymers around my foundation, and the west side of my swimming pool decking. I also had to repair some of the decking where the water from the broken overflow pipe washed the soil away and caused the decking to fall a couple of inches.
We decided to enlarge our pool deck on the West side of the pool. This would allow us to drill holes for piers, we placed one pier for every 10 square feet and built a retaining wall "footing" on the far West side of the enlarged deck.
I am watering my foundation with my soaker hose about every 10 days, but as the summer goes on, I will monitor the situation more often and water as needed.