August days are too hot and sticky for most of us to perform much labor in the garden, but it needs maintenance, plus you can do some early preparation work for the fall garden:
▪ Utilize green manure by turning weeds back into the soil to decompose.
▪ Solarize plots you plan to replant. Lay black plastic over the soil, staking it to the ground for 4–6 weeks. The heat buildup will kill harmful nematodes, insects, weed seeds and other pathogens so the soil is prepped for any delicate new plants like fall vegetables.
▪ Get ready for seedlings and transplants by scrubbing soil off empty clay or plastic pots. Then soak them in a 25/75 bleach-water solution to kill off unseen pathogens like fungi to give new plants a healthy start.
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▪ Heavy rain brings rapid growth, so trim back ornamentals and hedges to encourage denser foliage and discourage plants like lantana from getting too “woody.” While you’re at it, deadhead flowers to encourage new blooms.
— KENNETH SETZER,
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden