In recognition of the fact that it’s August and attention spans tend to be a little shorter during the languid days of mid-summer here are some random thoughts generated in the past week; hope you’re enjoying the heat wave, don’t forget the sunscreen.
If you grow tomatoes (and who doesn’t) in your garden you’ll likely have at some point fruit with a sunken, leathery black spot on the bottom. This is a physiological condition known as blossom end rot. It results from two closely-related factors; a lack of calcium and uneven soil moisture. Calcium is necessary to fully develop the fruit and it’s often lacking in sandy, thin soils. Even if present tomatoes have a tough time taking it up if the level of soil moisture fluctuates too much. Notice
how small the root system of a mature tomato is when you pull up your plants in the fall. Keeping the soil evenly moist with regular watering and mulch will lessen the problem. Using a fertilizer with added calcium helps too.
Humans adapt to high temperatures by shedding most of their clothing and going to the lake. Plants have different strategies. You’ll notice how the leaves of rhododendrons and flowering dogwoods (Cornus) are curling inwards during this stretch of hot weather. This action reduces the amount of surface area exposed to the sunlight and heat, cutting down on water loss (evapotranspiration) through the foliage. Both of these plants are more at home in environments with shade and higher humidity; in other words, not the Okanagan Valley in August! They might look somewhat disheveled but they’ll be just fine.
Some container plants struggle during hot weather but others thrive, to the point where they begin to take over. If the Ipomea (Sweet Potato Vine), Supertunias or other spiller plants in your pots are becoming territorial and shaggy it’s OK to reign them in by cutting back. Don’t be shy because these plants will quickly produce new growth and fill back in. Keep the fertilizer coming on a weekly basis to keep your containers looking great right through until fall.
A friend commented to me last week that their Japanese anemone had done nothing for three years and was finally beginning to bloom strongly. This is common for these workhorse perennials but they are definitely worth the wait. They can be valuable garden plants because they begin to bloom in August when there isn’t as much colour from perennials as there is in June, the blooms continue until frost in late October and they don’t attract any insects or diseases. The flower stems look great in a vase too.
Is your lawn struggling through the heat? It runs contrary to our North American love affair with green grass but the types of grasses found in turf blends naturally go dormant during the summer. The blades go yellow but the crowns and roots aren’t affected and quickly rebound when cooler weather arrives in September. Dry patches are not as attractive as lush green but it’s not fatal.

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