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Master Gardener column: Upkeep when it comes up on August

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By MaryLou Marchand

Special to the Pioneer

BEMIDJI - Mid-August into early September is the time to do lawn repairs. Warmer soil speeds germination and there is less competition from weeds. Lawns can be over-seeded or small areas renovated or new lawns started. There are specially formulated fertilizers for new lawns. Read the labels carefully. Be sure to water the area well as soon as it is seeded, then keep the seedbed damp by watering once or twice a day until most of the seed has sprouted and is growing.

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Here's some other tips as we turn the calendar to August:

Trees and Shrubs

• Check trees and shrubs for insects and diseases. Look for insect damage on foliage.

• Prune or thin shrubs that have flowered this summer. Spring flowering shrubs should have been pruned earlier. Late August is a good time to reshape lilacs and similar shrubs by removing some of the larger older stems close to the ground.

• Container grown trees and shrubs can be planted now. Check the planting directions for the appropriate hole size and loosen the roots just a little before planting. Water all trees and shrubs regularly until fall freeze up.

Flowers

Daylilies can be divided once they've finished blooming. Seed heads should be removed whether the daylilies are divided or not.

• Remove faded flowers regularly on annuals and perennials. Developing seeds slow rebloom on annuals and waste energy in perennials. Perennial foliage that has turned yellow may be cut back.

• If any plants are infected with aster yellows, pull out and destroy the plants. Do not put them in the compost pile.

• Fertilize baskets and pots of annuals to keep them at their best until the end of the season. Cut back petunias or other straggly annuals for better shape and additional flower production.

• Irises should be divided in August

Fruits

Prune out raspberry canes that have produced fruit this summer. These old, brown canes won't produce again.

Clean up all over ripe fruit from strawberries and raspberries and pick up windfalls from apples and other fruiting trees.

Strawberry beds should be renovated now.

Vegetables

It's not too late to plant some greens and other vegetables that grow quickly and can tolerate cool temps and even light frost. Plant basil in a large pot that you can protect from cooler temps. Greens such as lettuce, arugula, kale and spinach along with radishes. beets, carrots and snow peas can be planted now for fall eating.

Keep watering garden plants if we don't havesufficient rain. When you pick tomatoes, leave a bit of stem attached or pick a whole cluster to reduce the potential for mold or bacteria getting into the tomato and speeding deterioration.

• Trim lower leaves from tomato plants to increase air circulation and help reduce the risk of disease.

• Remove and dispose of diseased foliage from vegetable crops to reduce the spread of disease.

• Pick those zucchini and tomatoes before they get too big. If they stay on the vine, they will inhibit new fruit from developing.

Although it seems we've had a quite a lot of rain this season, check the soil around your trees and shrubs to see if you need to water. It may well be cheaper to water than to remove and replace a dead tree.

Take the time to enjoy your gardens and also to evaluate the performance of vegetable varieties and the success of annuals and perennials. Make notes now for next year's gardens.

To find reliable information about vegetable gardening and other horticultural topics, go to the University of Minnesota Extension website at www.extension.umn.edu/gardeninfo/> Local master gardeners will also answer your gardening questions via a voice-mail service. Call 444-7916, leaving your phone number, name and the nature of your question. A volunteer master gardener will give you a call.

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