August is a great month for propagating ... uh, let me be more specific; it's a great time for propagating plants. I often wonder why gardeners, including myself, don't do more of this. It is fun and a cheap way of adding plants to our gardens. A good place to start is by taking cuttings of perennial herbs including lavender, lemon balm, lemon verbena, rosemary, sage and winter savory.
For those not well-versed in propagation by way of cuttings, here's the technique: Cut 3- to 6-inch-long shoot tips from your herb plants; strip off the lower leaves of each cutting; dip the cut ends in a rooting hormone; and then stick cuttings in a flower pot filled with a moist mix of milled sphagnum moss or screened peat moss and coarse sand or perlite. Cover the cuttings with a clear plastic bag to keep the mix from drying.
This same technique can be used to take cuttings from perennials in the flower garden. Dianthus and sedums are easy, but experiment with rooting cuttings of other perennials. Geraniums, coleus, lantana, and impatiens are annuals that can be rooted and grown indoors through the winter in a well-lighted location. So, start propagating!
Here are some tasks spawned from my mind for your weekend pleasure: \
Get out of the rut! Alter mowing patterns each time lawns are mowed. It is easy for mower wheels to develop ruts in a lawn if following the same pattern at each mowing. \
Set the cutting height of the lawn mower at two and a half to three inches, if it is not already at that height. Mowing high will encourage deeper roots. I won't attempt to predict the weather, but if August is hot and dry, grass plants could be severely stressed. \
Prune back annual flowers, such as annual phlox, cosmos, flowering tobacco, impatiens, petunias, tall marigolds, zinnias and any others that have gotten leggy. Leggy plants tend to produce fewer flowers. Prune back leggy annuals about halfway. Then give them a dose of fertilizer. In a few weeks, they'll be blooming again. \
Grab a head and give it a sharp twist Ouch, not mine - a cabbage head. Cabbage has grown well with the cool, damp weather of spring and early summer. However, now that the heads are mature, heavy showers and hot weather can cause them to split. Split heads can lead to headaches I mean decay. Giving a cabbage plant a sharp twist will break many of the water absorbing roots and prevent head splitting. \
Harvest onions and shallots as soon as the tops flop and turn yellow or brown. If soils are heavy and remain wet long after a rain, it'd be wise to pull up these crops before the tops are completely brown to prevent the bulbs from rotting. Cure the harvested onions and shallots in a dry, well-ventilated area for a few weeks. Without this curing period, they won't keep long in storage.
Be sure to remove spent raspberry canes immediately after fruit harvest. Cut these canes back to ground level. The remaining greenleafed canes will produce next year's crop, so leave them alone. \
Give your houseplants a quarter turn each week to keep them from bending toward the light. That will not only promote even growth but will keep the plants from developing a backache from all that bending. \
"You grow it, we show it!" - that's what the Annual Grow Show at the Berkshire Botanical Garden is all about, a chance to show off your best garden flowers and vegetables. The show is next weekend, Aug. 10 and 11, at the Botanical Garden. All entries are judged, just as in the old days of the country fairs. Winners get bragging rights for the rest of the year.
For more information on the Show and submitting entries, go to: www.berkshirebotanical.org.