August Sustainable Garden Management Practices for the Southeast

Bee Better Naturally is proud to offer local workshops as well as our first online course, How-To Raise Monarch Butterflies and to Grow Milkweed.

Leaf & Limb Tree Service and Care during a Bee Better Naturally education program.  Why trees? Here is just one example:

Leaf & Limb Tree Service and Care during a Bee Better Naturally education program.

Why trees? Here is just one example:

Why trees!

Bee Better Naturally with Helen Yoest will be partnering with Leaf & Limb Tree Service & Tree Care. We will be sharing more soon.

Johnston County NC Extension Master Gardener Volunteers are hosting a Bird, Bee, and Butterfly pollinator symposium. Several of the folks from he Bee Better Naturally with Helen Yoest have already signed up to exhibit, and I personally will be attending the programs. Sever members of the Bee Better Naturally Forum had signed up as well. The speakers are all so knowledgeable in their field. And you can't beat the price and lunch is included!!! Hope to see you there.

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Bee Better Naturally will be attending the Raleigh City Farm Harvest Dinner in October. We hope to see some friends there.

2019 Raleigh City Farm Harvest Dinner

AUGUST The best thing I can say about August in the south, is that July is behind us and September is right around the corner! I also find it interesting in August to feel when the metrological fall arrives. It typically does so in August. The air is dryer. You can just tell!!!

Do you hide in August? I garden in August, as I do every month of the year, but I plan carefully when I go outside. August heat can be brutal! I’m not likely to go out into the garden after ten in the morning during August or before 10 AM in January. My internal clock wants to be in the garden by 7:00 AM every day of the year, but winter morning temperatures keep me inside writing. If it’s in the 90s, and I start in the garden earlier in the morning, I can stay until about 2:00. You can forget it between 2 – 5. Nope, no way. I can tour gardens during that time, although my pictures bite when the sun is at those angles.


Hollow Joe-Pye Weed,  Eupatorium fistulosum

Hollow Joe-Pye Weed, Eupatorium fistulosum

Lantana (Lantana camera), black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) , coreopsis (Coreopsis spp.), cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum), salvias (Salvia officinalis), Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium fistulosum,) phlox (Phlox paniculata), phlox, phlox, and more phlox (I love phlox.) We also have Mexican petunia (Ruella spp.), coneflowers (Echinacea spp.), , milkweeds (Asclelpsia) spp., , as well as cannas (Canna spp.), red spider lily (Lycoris radiate), and so many others.  Plus the annuals are blooming and benefiting from a July haircut.



The cleome start to get to big for my liking. I love them, but….During the later part of July and all of August, they start to look alien and unattractive. It’s right about the time they go to seed. So I try to wait long enough to get seed, of which I collect all I can, and sort by color.

What becomes unattractive to me are the long arms. Their pettiness seems to fade when putting its energy to seed. To try to extend the life of a single plant, I start by cutting off the arms at the bottom. After I’ve collected seed, I cut it at the base. The reason I cut it is twofold: The first is the root needs a good solid tug and the second is the stems are prickly. Not so bad as a rose, but bad enough when you’re trying the grip the base to pull from the ground. Even in gloves, it can be unpleasant.

Deadhead Flowers. Keep your flowers blooming longer by removing faded blossoms from your cannas, roses, daisies, and more. As for the seed plants, such as black-eyed Susans, phlox, and coneflower, leave the flower heads for the birds. Once the birds have picked them through, it’s OK to deadhead.

Deadleaf: I have a love/hate relationship with daylilies (Hemerocallis.) I love the flowers, both for beauty and edibility, but I don’t like the look of untidy foliage.

Some of my taller Rudbeckia spp. need the bottom leaves removed too.

Lawns: I’ve stopped carrying long ago about how my lawn looks. After I switched from fescue to emerald zoysia, I’ve not have as many problems. While I still get some weeds, I no longer have to worry about it struggling in the heat, getting a circle fungus, or watching it go dormant during the peak of summer. It’s not so much I don’t like the look of a grey lawn of drought-induced fescue , it’s watching the Bermuda wire grass thriving! Ugh!

If you are pledged with Poa annua, the annual blue grass, August is the time to put down an organic pre-emergence, like corn gluten, to keep these seeds from germinating next spring. If you have fescue and reseeding in the fall, there is a careful dance you need to perform. You must wait six weeks after putting down the pre-emergnece, or your fescue seeds won’t germinate! But if you put it down too early in August, you will miss the window of stopping the annual bluegrass spring germination.

Pruning: You can prune to shape plants if need be, but anytime past August or September is getting too late. New growth will emerge, and the new growth will be affected by the frost and cold weather.

Divide: August is a good time to divide iris. Don’t be afraid of this task; it’s super easy. When iris get crowded, they don’t bloom as well. Below is a good example of a crowded iris patch.


Using a garden fork or shovel, loosen the soil around the outside of the patch. Once loosened, take a hand fork or trowel to lightly left from the edge. They should release from soil with no struggle.

Gently pull clumps apart.

Discard rhizomes with no foliage, damaged, or soft.

Cut back the foliage into a fan shape to keep the iris from having to care for more growth than it needs to.

Replant at the surface of the ground. Lightly cover with soil, keeping the rhizome showing, and water in well.

I can’t think of a worse time to plant in the south than August; well, maybe July!!!

Select and pre-order your spring-blooming bulbs now while supplies are plentiful. Don’t put off today what will be gone tomorrow. The most unusual bulbs sell out fast. Try something new. Are you familiar with the species tulip, Tulipa clusiana?

Harvest vegetables, as needed. Most of what’s growing in your vegetable garden are annuals–tomatoes, beans, peppers, etc.  By August, they are looking a little wrung out. As plants end their production cycle, remove them from the garden to prevent disease to the plants that are still productive.

Believe it or not, August is time to think about your fall crops such as broccoli, radish,  spinach, kale, and others.

I only every want to speak from experience; these are the fruits I grow in the Bee Better Teaching Garden. I simply won’t grow them,;and if I did, I still wouldn’t spray. Joni Mitchell comes to mind.

The ‘Brown Turkey’ figs are in abundance

The birds got all the blueberries

The ‘Transcendent’ crabapples are progressing nicely

A few raspberries are still arriving

The muscadines are ripening up! Yum!

The Paw Paw are ready to harvest

In the absence of rain, fill bird baths. The monarchs are arriving and looking for your milkweed. I hope you have plenty! 

Butterflies would also like a mudding station.

And a shallow water station for both birds and bees to alight.

Waterwise:  With a waterwise design, watering in the absence of rain is a breeze.  My garden at home, the Bee Better Teaching Garden was designed with waterwise principles. I have very little watering to do, and what I do have, is a choice. My boxwood collection is contained and grouped together. But the watering is smart. These containers are near a watering source, so moving around a hose isn’t a big deal.

This is true year round, and particularly true in July and August:

Remember, waterwise means you should  water new plantings until they are established. At the BBTG, we recommend:

Annuals: Best planted after the last frost. (For my area of Raleigh, it is April 15th.)  Most annuals will last through last frost.

Perennials: Best planted in the fall or spring. When first plant, water every other day after the first week, every third day the next, and weekly after that in the absence of rain. Give them an inch. If you must plant in August, double this!

Shrubs: Best planted in the fall. In the absence of an inch of rain, water deeply weekly for the first year. I bet you don’t do that. I’ve lost shrubs by forgetting this sage advice. If you must plant in August, double this!

Trees: Best planted in the fall. In the absence of an inch of rain in any given week, water deeply weekly for two years. I bet you don’t do that either. It’s a good idea to begin some new routines! If you must plant in August, double this!

Mulch: This time of the year, your mulch is working double duty! Mulch moderates soil temperature, which is helpful particularly in the summer or winter. Plus organic mulches retain moisture & slowly add nutrients as it breaks down in the soil.

Pine sawfly larvae

Pine sawfly larvae

Pest control:  Pests. See these on your pines? They’re the pine sawfly larvae. Pick them off and drop them in a bucket of soapy water. I feed them to my chickens.

 Organic: In my gardens at home and at the Bee Better Teaching Garden, we don’t use fertilizers.  We won’t win the largest pumpkin at the fair, but we will have plenty of pumpkin for pies. But I’ve been building my soil for the last 20 years. She can take care of herself.

Before you fertilize, have your soil tested. Adding to much fertilizer can be harmful to many plants.

Fertilizer dos and don’ts. As August arrives, some plants will benefit from an application of fertilizer. For other plants, it could do more harm than good.

Do fertilize, Summer veggies such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant continue to produce when fertilized regularly. Use a product that contains 5 percent nitrogen.
Fall vegetable crops
Fall-blooming perennial and annual flowers
Chrysanthemums and dahlias
Re-blooming iris would benefit from a light application
Warm season lawns (Bermuda and Zoysia) can be fertilized
Remember to water any application of fertilizer well into the soil to provide nutrients to the roots of the plants.

Don’t fertilize: 
Azaleas and camellias, because the fertilizer will disturb bud formation.
Summer-flowering shrubs shouldn’t need fertilizing for the same reason.

Weeds: Try to keep up; I know it’s hard.

Cut flowers. Remember those zinnias you seeded in July? Seed more in August, and be sure to cut some to enjoy inside!


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