In August, your summer garden should be in full swing. Now is the time to enjoy the hard work you’ve put into your garden over the last several months and also to start planning and planting for your fall garden, keeping in mind that we are in a drought year. Practice mindful and responsible watering in your garden, trying to prioritize where in your garden you allocate this precious resource.
Weeds steal water and nutrients from your plants, as well as harboring insects and disease. Make sure to pull them before they have a chance to flower and seed — or you will be fighting newly germinated weed seed for years to come.
Prioritize watering needs:
• Most well-established trees and shrubs and drought-tolerant plants can get by without regular watering.
• Water only when signs of drought stress begin to appear: wilting, curling leaves, or loss of color.
• Water in the early morning or evening to minimize evaporation, and soak thoroughly so that it can be done less often.
• Prune shrubs and trees thoroughly: minimizing new growth means they will need less water.
• Shade or cover plants if we get hot weather, so they don’t get as thirsty.
• Think about collecting water that might normally go to waste in your household for use in your garden, such as from running the tap while waiting for water to heat up. If you don’t use it immediately, store in a clean and covered container.
• Mulch garden beds with bark to keep soil from drying out as quickly.
Herbs can be used in a variety of ways in the kitchen, medicinally, and ornamentally. For example, basil adds flavor to salads and sauces, chamomile tea soothes the whole body, and lavender will freshen any room with its beauty and scent. Growing your own herbs is not only easy to do but also incredibly rewarding. Herbs can be grown either in pots or directly in the ground. Keep in mind that mint is very aggressive and will quickly take over your garden, so it’s best to plant it in containers. Some species of rosemary and lavender form large bushes and will need room to do so.
If you are planting directly in the ground, choose a site that gets at least six hours of direct sunlight. (Mint can take some shade.) Mix in both compost and sphagnum moss to lighten up the existing soil and provide proper drainage. Once planted, herbs require little attention. Like most plants, they do not like soil that’s too wet, but prefer just the right amount of water. It is generally ideal for the soil to be slightly cool and moist to the touch. Little fertilization if any is required. Fertilization actually detracts from a herb’s flavor.
Herbs rarely suffer from severe disease or insect damage, but in case they do, fight them with an organic method such as ladybugs, neem oil, or one of the Safer brand products. To harvest, pinch off or snip with a pair of scissors. This will also encourage fuller growth. It is always best to harvest early in the day. Most of the common herbs will stay with you throughout the years, with the exception of basil and cilantro, which are annuals and die off each year, and parsley, which is a biennial and lasts two years.
Enjoy in your favorite recipes and use to flavor and garnish summer drinks.
BEE FRIENDLY: BUILD A BEE BLOCK
The Flight of the Bumblebee is now unfortunately the “plight of the bumblebee,” so let’s give our poor bees a helping hand, or a home to be exact! Approximately 30 percent of our bees are cavity-nesting bees that make their homes in dead trees, fallen limbs, and
old logs. In ur-ban areas, dead trees are usually removed, making one less nesting place for our buzzing buddies. Bee nesting habitats are easy to build with just a few materials.
Create a bee community by building a nesting block or stem bundle. Using a redwood block, simply drill holes of various sizes: 5/8 inch, 1/2 inch, and 3/8 inch. Holes should be 4 to 5 inches deep, so a 4″ x 6″ block is a good size to use. The back of the block should be solid, so do not drill the hole completely through.
Another type of bee home is a stem bundle made with hollow branches, such as bamboo stalks. Cut below a node so that one side of the branch is closed. Bundle the branches and hang horizontally. Bee blocks should be east- to southeast-facing and protected from afternoon sun, wind, and rain. Building a bee block is a great family project and a fun way to learn about bees.