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Wisconsin Yard and Garden Tips

August, 2014

Plant Hardiness Zones Map | Last Spring Frost Map | First Fall Frost Map
UW Extension County Offices
By Sharon Morrisey, Consumer Horticulture Agent, Milwaukee County UW-Extension
Wisconsin Yard and Garden Tips is updated monthly by Milwaukee County UW-Extension. Applicability in northern Wisconsin counties may be delayed one to two weeks in spring, and advanced a like period in fall.

What a strange summer it has been. The effects of the past difficult winter are still visible everywhere from browned yews to dead trees. In general, the constant snow cover protected many herbaceous plants. They have fully recovered and some have exceeded expectations. Unfortunately, the weeds have loved it, too.

It has been a cool, moist summer. Although we are significantly behind in growing degree days this year, standard recommendations still hold for sowing grass seed, pruning watersprouts out of fruit trees and pest control. Do not prune trees or shrubs now and remember to fertilize more since the rains have washed nitrogen out of the soil.

From July thirtyith through August tenth, visit the UW-Extension Master Gardener volunteers at the Wisconsin State Fair. Their “Model Backyard” exhibit in the DNR’s Natural Resources Park in the southwest corner of the fairgrounds includes a garden of native plants, working compost bins, a hardy cactus garden, a rain garden and much more. The butterfly garden will take your breath away and inspire you to include plants in your garden to attract those winged wonders. The best part of their exhibit is the Master Gardener volunteers themselves. They will be happy to discuss your gardening questions and direct you to the reliable, science based resources of the University of Wisconsin-Extension.

First Week

The last date to sow sweet corn for the year is August 1st.

For late crops of beets, bush beans, carrots, Chinese cabbage, cucumbers, kohlrabi, and onion sets, continue sowing seeds until August 15th. Peas and collards can be seeded again now, too.

Aphids can continue to show up all season long. Dislodge them with a strong blast of water or use insecticidal soap (not dish soap) when first noticed.

Continue controlling stripped and spotted cucumber beetles which spread bacterial wilt to cucumbers, squashes, melons, and gourds. Weekly dusts or sprays of the organic insecticides containing spinosad or the synthetic carbaryl (Sevin) or permethrin (Eight) are effective but only if insects are present. Apply late in the day after flowers close and bees are not present. Remove infected, wilted plants immediately.

Colorado potato beetle adults are back for a second generation. Since these distinctive, globular, yellow and black striped insects are so easily seen they can either be removed by hand or sprayed. Products containing the active ingredient spinosad are very effective and organic. The synthetic insecticide carbaryl (Sevin) can also be used.

After the last raspberry harvest for the year, prepare for next year while also avoiding diseases by pruning out old flowering canes leaving only 3-4 young canes per foot of row. Wait until spring to prune back shoot tips.

Avoid pruning trees and shrubs since doing so this late in the season can stimulate new growth that will not harden off in time for the cold winter weather ahead. Delay pruning until the end of the dormant season early next spring. Late in the season when trees and shrubs are going dormant therefore wounds heal very slowly.

Second Week

Harvest vegetables such as tomatoes and melons regularly and frequently to avoid overripe fruit which attracts picnic beetles.

Harvest onions and garlic as the tops dry and fall over. Braid garlic tops and hang in a cool, dry place. Cut onion tops back to 1" and dry thoroughly before storing. Use any damaged produce immediately.

Fall bearing raspberries will begin ripening. Pick fruit as soon as ripe since overripe fruit attracts picnic beetles which will seriously damage fruit.

Make the second application of fertilizer on new plantings of June bearing strawberries. Apply 3 lbs. of 10-10-10 per 100 feet of row.

This is a good time to order and plant spring flowering bulbs for next year's early flower display. Plan for different flowering times to extend the season. As with most flowers, they are best displayed in masses of all one type and color rather than in mixtures which can be busy and garish.

Third Week

From now until September 20th is the ideal time to seed or sod new lawns or to repair diseased or damaged areas of your yard. Prepare areas with an application of the herbicide glyphosate 10 days before seeding or sodding. Rototill the area to a depth of 6-8". Work in extra organic matter and fertilizer. Level and rake smooth. Rake seeded areas lightly to bury seed about 1/8 inch. Tamp to assure good seed to soil contact. Cover newly seeded areas with a very light layer of straw or floating row cover fabric to help retain moisture. Do not allow to dry out until all grass has emerged - about 15 days. Mow as soon as the new grass is 3 - 31/2 inches tall.

Seeds can again be sown for a late crop of leaf lettuce, mustard greens, Swiss chard and spinach.

If you haven't already done so, divide irises now before their second flush of root growth which will occur during fall's cool, moist weather. Examine rhizomes for borer tunnels and soft rot. Destroy all infected plants. Replant by barely covering the small sections of rhizome each with a fan of leaves and some roots. Cut leaves back by 2/3's.

If you want flowering plants indoors this winter of fuschia, wax begonia, impatiens, geraniums, and coleus, root cuttings now in vermiculite or perlite. Use rooting hormone powder on cut stem ends. Keep flats or pots in a calm, shady spot outdoors until mid-September.

Fourth Week

In the flower garden, continue deadheading which will allow plants to use energy reserves for a final flower display. If there are signs of diseases, remove all leaf litter and spent plants to prevent the spread of spores.

Prepare for a Labor Day fertilizer application to the lawn. September is the only time of year when weed and feed products are actually timed right for both the weed control and the fertilization. If you do three applications of fertilizer per year, they should be on Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day.

Late season problems on deciduous plants should be of lesser concern than those that appeared earlier in the season since leaves will soon change color and drop anyway. Diseased leaves should be removed promptly to minimize pest problems next year.


For more information, contact Home Horticulture Agent Sharon Morrisey.

Plant Hardiness Zones Map | Last Spring Frost Map | First Fall Frost Map | UW Extension County Offices

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