August in the Contra Costa Garden
August Garden To Dos
Drought Tips and Practices
Hold off on adding new plants to your landscape. All new plantings, even native and Mediterranean-climate drought tolerant plants require water until they are established. Many drought tolerant plants are not fully established for 2 years at minimum. Wait until the fall rains for any new planting.
For more info: Saving Water Partnership, Seattle Public Utilities, Watering to Establish Your New Plants
Mulch, mulch, mulch! Mulch keeps the soil temperature lower and helps retain soil moisture to make the most of the water you do provide. It also helps keep water-competing weeds under control.
- Maintain approximately 3" of mulch on all planting beds.
- Resist the temptation to mulch over 4”...it's possible to have too much! Very thick mulch decreases the flow of oxygen into the soil.
- Apply coarse-textured mulches up to 4" deep
- Fine-textured mulch packs more closely, so apply no more than 2" deep.
- When applying mulch near trees and woody shrubs, keep mulch at least 3-6" away from each trunk.
For more info: Sonoma County Master Gardener Program, Mulch - a Gardener's Best Friend
Prioritize your mature trees for care during the drought.
- Avoid heavy pruning. Pruning can lead to excessive plant growth and an increased demand for water. It's best to wait until the winter dormant season.
- How much water your tree should receive depends upon the tree size, soil type and how naturally thirsty the tree is. A general rule of thumb is to use approximately 10 gallons of water per inch of trunk diameter for each watering. Measure trunk diameter at knee height. Water every 2 to 4 weeks.
For more info: Colorado State University, Cooperative Extension Program, Caring for Trees in a Dry Climate.
For more drought tips:
- Contra Costa Drought Tips.
- UC Master Gardener Program: The California Garden Web, Drought: Garden Tips.
- UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, Drought Resources.
- UC ANR, Ten tips for vegetable gardening during a drought.
General Garden Care
- Keep compost piles slightly moist, turn frequently.
- Pick up and compost fallen fruit to help prevent the spread of disease and insects.
- Stay cool—garden in the early morning or late afternoon. Enjoy the fruits of your labor! Avoid mid-day sun!
- Prune summer bearing berries when fruiting is finished. More info: Growing Berries in Your Backyard.
- Prune apricots before rains to prevent Eutypa lata fungus from infecting pruning wounds. Remove about 20% of last year’s growth to let light into the tree. Remove old, broken, and/or diseased branches.
- Prop up fruit tree branches if needed to help with the fruit load.
- Raise squash and cucumbers off the ground so pests cannot tunnel into the fruit.
- Direct sow winter vegetable seeds: beets, onions, Swiss chard, carrots, parsley, spinach, peas, radishes, and lettuce.
- Start containers of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale.
- Plant a last row of corn to ripen in the fall.
- Harvest vegetables frequently.
Flowers & Landscaping
- Plant fall-blooming bulbs (e.g. Crocus, Lycoris).
- Deadhead spent flowers to keep plants blooming.
- Divide bearded iris rhizomes if over three years of age.
- Lightly fertilize spring blooming shrubs; they are setting flower buds now.
- Cut and dry summer flowers & herbs in dry shade.
- Cut back or deadhead straggly early summer color plants.
- Lightly fertilize chrysanthemums at the end of the month.
- Drippy acorns? Drippy acorns are caused by a bacterium similar to Erwinia amylovora, the organism that causes pear fire blight. There is little to be done...just keep plants as stress-free as possible and clean up fallen leaves regularly.
- Check plants for mite damage. More info: Spider Mites.
Local Weather Information
Linked data is from the California Irrigation Management Information System (CIMIS) weather stations. Visit CIMIS web site.
Contra Costa County Stations
USDA zones range from 8-9B
Sunset zones range from 7-17
West County: Sunset 15/16/17
Average min. temp 55.7°F (*)
Average max. temp 66.9°F (*)
Average rainfall 0.04 inches
Central County: Sunset 14/15
Average min. temp 58.7°F (*)
Average max. temp 83.4°F (*)
Average rainfall 0.20 inches
East County: Sunset 14
Average min. temp 56.7°F (*)
Average max. temp 89.4°F (*)
Average rainfall 1.06" (*)
(Weather averages: August 2014 data from California Irrigation Management Information System (CIMIS). (*) indicates flagged, possibly inaccurate and/or missing data.)
- August 1st is known as Lughnasadh or Lunasa, the cross-quarter day, halfway between summer solstice and fall equinox.
- The official flower for August is the gladiolus. These vertical-growing flowers were named from the Latin "gladius," meaning a sword.
- The month of August is often referred to as the "dog days of summer" but not because of pet pooches. It has to do with the star Sirius, also known as the Dog Star, which rose at the same time as sunrise during the month of August in ancient Roman times.