August in the Southern Garden
August was originally called Sextilis by the Romans -- it was their sixth month. When Julius Caesar adopted his nephew and made him heir, the Roman Senate named Caesars' successor "Augustus" meaning "revered" and named a month to honor him. Augustus himself, took one day from February and added it to August so that his month would have 31 days -- as did July -- the month of his uncle Julius.
Anglo-Saxons called August -- "Arn-monath" or "harvest month." The Saxons also called it "Weod-monath" because, for them, as for us, weeds seem to thrive in August's heat and humidity.
The flower of August is Gladiolus. Planted now, their two-foot shafts of pastel blooms will color your fall landscape. The Latin word Gladiolus means "small sword" and reflects the long, narrow, leaf shapes. Sixteenth century European names included -- sword flag, sword lily and corn flags. Thought to originate in the Eastern Mediterranean, Glads were introduced to the U.S. in the mid-eighteen-hundreds. Florida now leads the nation in production of Glads for the cut flower market.
Other flowers you can plant now are: Coleus, Salvia, Caladium, Canna, Shrimp plant, Impatiens and Portulaca. By pinching out the faded blossoms of these and other flowers, they will continue to bloom longer. A time-release fertilizer, applied when planting or as a top dressing will extend the flowering vigor.
If you're growing Mums or Poinsettias for winter color, this is the last month to pinch back the stem tips to increase branching and promote heavier flowering. If your trees and shrubs are looking pale, it may be that summer rains have washed out the fertilizer. Before you apply more, read the directions carefully... too much can cause damage.
Now's the time to start planting cool-weather vegetables: turnip, cauliflower and broccoli. This is the last month to plant beans and tomato. Barring an un-expected frost, gardeners in our area can grow both warm and cool-weather vegetables through the fall.
Vegetable transplants for your Fall garden may be hard to find or too expensive. Growing them yourself from seed can solve both problems. Empty egg cartons are just the right size for seedlings. If it's not a paper material, poke a hole with a pencil for drainage. Fill each cavity with soil and place two or three seeds in each. Water gently and place in bright, indirect light. Once sprouted, turn the carton every other day so the plants won't lean toward the light. If more than one seed germinates, remove all but the strongest plant from each cavity. When the seedlings are about four to six inches high, they're ready for the garden. Transplant late in the day and water well but gently.
Muscadine grapes are ripening now. They're available at the Farmers Market and at U-Pick locations. The skins are thick and most have seeds, but their flavor is good.
Enjoy August to the fullest. It may be a rough month for gardening, so follow the shade as you work in the yard. If you don't have enough shade, call TREE WATCH: 372-21077. They can cool your future.
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