The weather is hot and dry, just like the August we are used to here in Contra Costa County! There are a lot of benefits and some negatives when it comes to gardens this time of year. Here are some tips to keep your garden beautiful as end of summer BBQs and other events begin to pick up.

What the pests are up to:  The hot weather and natural predators have reduced most aphid populations, however, watch for aphid problems on trees such as birch, ash and tulip trees. Snail and slug populations are also low because of the dry, hot weather. However, mites and thrips prefer this weather so watch for tiny light green speckles on the leaf surface. Confirm their presents by checking the back side of the leaf with a hand lens and if needed, use insecticidal soaps or summer horticultural oil for control. 

Time to plant: Coreopsis, day lilies, delphinium, gerbera, gloriosa daisy, lobelia, bearded iris and chrysanthemums.

What to Fertilize: Give azaleas camellias and rhododendrons their last application of fertilizer this year. Feed your annuals with 0-10-10. Apply a balanced fertilizer to deciduous fruit trees and other spring flowering landscape plants, for this is the time they initiate flower buds for next spring.

Prune Away! Continue light pruning of shrubs to maintain size and shape. Remove twenty percent of the oldest canes on Nandina, Spriea and Abelia to invigorate new growth. Divide crowded bearded iris rhizomes. Thin crowded Dutch iris and daffodil beds. Continue to dead head spent flowers. Thin buds on mums for larger flowers. Pick up fallen fruit to reduce diseases next year.

Give Your Lawn Some Love! Continue to watch for dry spots and water as needed. If an area looks dry, but it does not respond to additional water, insects may be the problem. White grub damage resembles drought because they feed on the grass roots, limiting the plants ability to take up water. Check for grubs by tugging on the turf, if it comes up easily you may have grubs. Look for grubs near the edge of the damaged area. White grub are about two inches long and folded in a “C” shape. Raccoons, skunks and moles can also be indicators of white grub problem. These animals do considerable damage as they tear up your lawn in search of grubs to eat. Use nematodes or granular diazinon for control and Water immediately for ten (10) to fifteen (15) minutes to get the material down to the insects. Control is extremely difficult in heavily thatched lawn as the materials get “tied up” in the thatch layer. Raccoons and skunks will often return even after the grubs have been killed. Fruit tree netting staked over the effected areas for three weeks will stop any further damage. When using any chemicals for control of pests be sure to read and follow the directions provided.