Printed from THE DAILY JOURNAL, dtd. 08/11/2011

Time to preserve your garden
August 11, 2011, 03:13 AM By Joan Tharp

You would never know it by the weather, but summer is wrapping up.

It is time to harvest summer vegetables.

As space becomes available in your vegetable garden, begin planting cool season vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, spinach and onions.

Before early September, prune your apricot or cherry tree. Both are susceptible to Eutypa fungus, which causes severe gumming around previous pruning wounds and branch die-back. Pruning now, a good six weeks before winter rains start, helps prevent the disease. You also want to remove old, broken and diseased branches.

This is also a good time to deeply water all trees and shrubs. Trees should get a drenching as far down as two feet. A soaker hose is great for this. Lay it flat on the ground and wrap it around the tree several times, beginning several feet away from the trunk and ending just past the drip line (The drip line is the outer circumference of the tree’s branches — the outermost circle of where rain would drip from the leaves).

Prune your berry vines after harvest.

For you flower growers, give your roses and all blooming plants another shot of fertilizer this month. Use a balanced fertilizer (The numbers on the package of fertilizer should be about equal, such as 10-10-10).

Keep those flowering beauties going strong by deadheading: removing dead or spent flower heads. If you don’t, your plant will think it is to time to make seeds instead of flowers.

While you are deadheading, check the health of your plant. Any aphids lined up along the stems? (These are tiny, soft-bodied, sucking insects that can be black, green or yellow. They are easy to squish. The squeamish among you can blast them away with a jet of water from the hose. Still, you might just want to wait and see if their natural predators come in and take care of them). Is the plant root-bound in its container? (Poke your finger into the soil. Are you immediately feeling a thick mat of roots? That means the plant has outgrown its container, and either needs to move into a large abode or have its root mass trimmed). Are leaves looking a healthy green or a sickly yellow? (Chlorosis is a problem that often pops up in mid-summer in California. It is caused by a lack of iron or zinc. Chlorosis makes new leaves turn yellow, or causes the veins of older leaves to stay green while the rest of the leaf turns yellow. There are other reasons for yellow leaves, including a lack of nitrogen and too much light).

If you haven’t divided your bearded irises in the last two to four years, do it, and before mid-September. Bearded irises need to be dug up, divided and replanted about every couple of years or they will pretty much stop blooming.

Check nurseries for autumn-blooming bulbs, such as the spectacular spider lilies (lycoris) and fall crocuses (crocus specious and crocus sativas). You should also find other gorgeous bulbs, such as clivia, freesia and watsonia.

Until next time, happy digging!

Joan Tharp is a University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardener. She lives in San Mateo. She can be reached at

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Want to learn more about harvesting and preserving your bounty? Master Gardeners of San Mateo and San Francisco Counties is sponsoring a workshop on harvesting and food preservation 10 a.m. to noon Aug. 27 at Little House in Menlo Park. For more information visit