August can be a challenging gardening month in arid regions. If parts of your garden look bedraggled, you are probably saving on your water bill. One look at areas landscaped by nature will convince you that August is a time of semi-dormancy in our dry climate. Don't despair — sow seeds for winter annuals now and irrigate them carefully. Your plants will be well-rooted when the winter rains take over.
Rose Blossoms Are On Their Way. Scrutinize your rose bushes and see if there are a few judicious pruning cuts that you can make. Major pruning must wait until January, but cutting out a few spindly branches growing from the bush's center now means more blooms in September and October. Remember that roses always bloom at the tips of healthy branches and shape accordingly. Continue to water and mulch.
Keep Harvesting and Inspecting Tomatoes. Watch out for hornworm! These insects blend in perfectly with the foliage of the vines, but they are big, and leave only a stem where leaves once were. Hand-pick these critters before they defoliate and weaken your plants.
Planting Winter Veggies. You can plant winter squash, lima beans, and corn from seed now. Sprinkle the seeds with water often until they sprout. When the days are very warm, watering your seed bed four times a day is not too much.
Potted Plant Care. Group potted plants together to insulate them and be vigilant about your plants' water needs. Even succulents may succumb to the combination of August heat and too little water.
Vacation Houseplants Outdoors. If you have a shady outdoor spot, your houseplants can be easily washed and watered.
Bulbs, Etc. You will find fall bulbs, corms, and rhizomes in some nurseries this month. Look for rhizome iris in a large variety of types and colors. Iris are easy to grow and have a long bloom period. After some years they will become so crowded that you can divide them, creating new plants for your garden or friends.
Hot, Hot, Hot. Heat-loving annuals may still be planted, but their blooming season will be shorter and the plants will not be as vigorous. Plant ageratum, marigolds, petunias, portulaca, annual verbena, and zinnia from sets only.
Start cool-weather plants from seed now: calendulas, cone flower, nemesia, scabiosa, snapdragons, stock, sweet alyssum, violas, and yarrow. In mild areas, alyssum will re-seed freely.
Mow and Water Your Lawn. Don't plant seed or turf now, unless you want watering your lawn to be a full-time job. By late September or October it will be easier and less expensive to get grass started.
Orchard Tree Planting. Now is your last chance to plant cold-sensitive fruit trees such as avocado, banana, cherimoya, citrus, guava, kiwi, and sapote. Water and mulch well after planting and continue to water frequently for the first few days, or more, if the weather is very hot and sunny.