Dog Days of Summer August Lawn & Garden Tips

July Weather & Predictions for August
The hot and muggy weather of July and August, often referred to as the Dog Days of Summer, are a hot and humid benefit to heat loving plants, but are a breeding ground for pests in our landscapes. Areas of Northeast Florida had nearly twice the typical July rainfall. More rain is coming in August as higher ocean water temperatures increase the possibility of intense tropical storms and hurricanes. Consider our “Hurricane Season Landscape Preparation” tips as saturated soil increases the threat of uprooting trees and flooding in the event of hurricanes impacting the region.

Nearly a foot of rain (11.76 inches) fell in July, as The National Weather Service (NWS) reported at Craig Airport. That’s over three feet of rain accumulation in Northeast Florida thus far in 2021. With the water came the heat. July’s highest temperature was 96F, set on Saturday the 31st at the end of the regions’ hottest week of the year. According to the NWS, July 27 saw a record high dew point temperature of 80 degrees at Jacksonville International Airport (JIA). Dew points above 55 degrees feel sticky, but over 65 degrees can make breathing difficult, especially for those with respiratory conditions. Combined, the high temperature, dew point, and rainfall were a recipe for more pests and disease. Likewise, the Earth Works Landscaping Division’s drainage business is booming as a result!

Emerging Pest Threats in August
Our lawn spraying techs saw an increase in grasshoppers and gray leaf spot fungus during the July phase of the Dog Days of Summer. We recommend bifenthrin treatments for grasshoppers that likewise targets sod webworms. Gray leaf spot is a fungus that forms brownish-gray, often diamond-shaped areas on St. Augustine turf during wet and humid weather conditions. During dry periods their spores settle in the thatch waiting for favorable weather conditions to emerge. Gray leaf spot is in a genus closely related to species that likewise threaten global rice production. As such, there is a tremendous amount of ongoing research into treatments. “The fungus Pyricularia oryzae causes blast diseases of rice, wheat, and other cereals (e.g., millets),” according to The American Phytopathological Society. “In addition, P. oryzae is also responsible for the gray leaf spot disease of ryegrass, a major problem for golf courses in the United States. A host jump from perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) onto wheat was recently reported and is suspected to be at the origin of strains causing severe epidemics on wheat in South America.”

Earth Works Lawn Care Operations Manager Chad Lakin encourages good cultural practices as the best way to limit gray leaf spot damage. Keep mower blades sharp and cut the grass high, only removing the top third of the grass leaf blades when mowing. Do all you can to reduce stress to the turf, including avoidance of herbicides during outbreaks, and be sure to limit irrigation during periods of excessive precipitation. While you can’t stop the rain, you can adjust sprinklers manually, turn them off on rain days, and consider a Smart Sprinkler Controller that considers weather conditions before watering.

August Plantings
Look for tomatoes, peppers, and a selection of herbs at Earth Works as we say goodbye to the oppressive heat and rain of the Dog Days of Summer. Plant Buyer Dennis Hamilton likewise notes later in Fall, we will start getting cool-season veggies, including lettuce, broccoli, and collards. So now is an excellent time to start thinking about preparing your beds for the fall garden. In August, a few in-stock plants that we don’t always have available include Mojito Colocasia, Canna Tropicana, Sweet Almond Bush, Citrosa, and Horsetail reeds along with other water lilies and marginals.

Matt Barlow, Garden Center Manager, discusses care requirements for a variety of plants in the Earth Works greenhouse that are suitable as houseplants in our area, including:
-Alocasia Grey Dragon: Alocasia maharani has a silver hue to the leaves, almost metallic. They are easy to grow and suitable for low light conditions.
Alocasia Black Velvet: Alocasia reginula is quite popular with garden center visitors last time we had it in stock. As the name suggests, they have a soft and velvety look to the foliage. They are easy to grow like the Alocasia maharani.
Alocasia Pink Dragon: Alocasia CV.’ Pink Dragon’ at first glance, has a similar appearance to the Alocasia amazonica or Alocasia polly with a slightly different irregular leaf shape and dark veins on the underside, which provide a beautiful contrast with their striking pink stem. These are a terrific choice for low light or bright indoor situations.
Calathea orbifolia, a prayer plant variety is a spectacular plant. Let them grow, and as they grow, bump them up to a larger and larger container. The larger the plant gets, the more dramatic, the larger leaves get. Calathea orbifolia is a fantastic low-light plant for here in Northeast Florida.
Ficus Audrey: Ficus benghalensis is very similar to the rubber plant. However, it has a lovely light green leaf with very distinct lighter-colored venation. Our available selection appears full in this size and very easy to grow. These will make excellent houseplants and outdoors in medium to rather bright light. Super easy to grow and relatively fast. They can be grown in shrub or tree form.
Moon Valley Pilea: Pilea mollis’ Moon Valley’ has a bumpy texture that is soft and velvety with a little bit of coarseness to the light green leaves with purple venation.
Ficus Umbellata is a new feature at the garden center that’s a good choice as a houseplant in a bright situation or outdoors in lower light with its vertical form and large floppy leaves. Be prepared to bump these up into larger containers as they will grow into a much larger plant. These large leaves are dramatic. It has the distinct ficus sheath on new leaves similar to what you will see on other ficus. Ficus Umbellata can make a striking focal point on the patio, lanai, porch, or corner of a room.
Now is a good time to consider planting trees, which are the focus of our August Plant of the Week campaigns, including; Crape Myrtle, Japanese Maple, Magnolia, and Red Maple. Visit the Earth Works garden center and consider a purchase with 10% off depending on the particular plant of the week when you shop.

For comprehensive solutions to your specific lawn, garden and landscaping need, contact Earth Works of Jacksonville online and at 904-996-0712.
We proudly serve clients in Northeast Florida, including Jacksonville, Ponte Vedra Beach, Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach, Jacksonville Beach, Nocatee, St. Johns, Fleming Island, Orange Park,  Middleburg, Green Cove Springs, Amelia Island, Fernandina, and St. Augustine.