The “Dog Days of Summer” are here. The phrase comes from the constellation in the sky now, Canis Major, which contains Sirius, the dog star. Sirius is the biggest and brightest star in the night sky, and is one you can see even in the city. Sirius comes from the Greek word sireios, meaning ‘sparkling’, or ‘scorching’. I think the latter word is the more apt for our hot, dry August weather.
Here’s three things to do in the August garden.
1. Water judiciously. You don’t have to run a sprinkler on the whole garden, but spot watering is a good practice, especially for perennials planted this year, or any annuals that look droopy. Simply water soil around the plant itself. Trees and shrubs are especially threatened by the August drought, so make sure you add an inch of water each week to newly planted specimens.
2. Mulch like crazy! Bags of shredded bark, pine or cedar are insurance against losing a plant. Mulch holds water in, keep weeds down, and keeps soil cooler. It also encourages beneficial micro-organism activity on the soil surface, and benefits the worms below. You might even get a few more toads in your garden.
Another great benefit of mulch is stopping water run-off, whether from rain or a hose. The word mulch comes from the French, meaning “to soften”—the water’s impact is softened and slowed down when it hits the mulch. Avoid any hideous bright orange mulch and go for a natural variety.
To preserve mulch add a layer of newspaper before you put down the mulch as an additonal barrier. Moisten the newspaper first. You can also use your own clippings from cedar hedges, grass or other vegetation—like rhubarb leaves—as a green mulch. Just keep anything with weed seeds out.
3. Harvest! Pluck those tomatoes, pull off those zucchini before they turn into potential murder weapons, and start grilling or making those once a year fresh tomato sandwiches. It’s a great time to have a vegetable garden.