This is not the time to fertilize or start a new lawn, but you can add new trees and shrubs to your landscape.
If you plant, the soil will be dry so use soaker hoses, sprinklers and hand watering to help thirsty new plants survive until the fall rains return.
Local nurseries are starting to discount their plants and you can shop the sales and bring your potted plants home to store them in the shade for a few weeks if you are not ready to start planting. Once the night temperatures cool down in September, the real fun of fall planting can begin.
Q. I am thinking about using colored rocks in my garden paths just to add interest. We have very dry soil and I struggle to keep summer flowers alive. I have had good luck with boulders as part of my landscape. My questions: How do I keep weeds from growing in my decorative gravel pathways? — T., Gig Harbor
A. You can’t kill a good rock, so planting boulders instead of bushes is a great way to add texture and contrast to a landscape plan. Gravel options can be very beautiful and in one section of my own garden I used turquoise gravel as a pathway.
I placed cardboard down first to smother any weeds, then laid about 2 inches of the gravel on top with an edging to keep it in place. I hand pull a few weeds each spring, but otherwise my pathway has been easy to maintain.
Tip: To save money on the more expensive colored stones, make the first inch of your pathway out of less expensive crushed rock. Then frost it with the exotic color of gravel you want for your pathway.
Q. How far back can I prune a hanging basket of petunias? My petunias looked great for most of the summer, but now the upper half of the basket is leafless with flowers just at the tips of the branches. I also have some upright growing begonias in this basket and they look great, so I don’t want to toss our hanging basket just because of the ugly petunias. — RT, Enumclaw
A. Time for some drastic pruning. You can cut leggy petunias back to 6 inch stumps and with fertilizer and extra water you’ll have blooms again in a few weeks.
Remember that as container gardens fill in over the summer, the pot is often full of roots, making it difficult for the soil to hold moisture. You may need to dunk the entire container in water or water twice a day to hydrate on hot days.
Next spring look for the “Supertunia” line of petunias for better behaved plants that will display bigger blooms on more compact plants.
Q. I want year round color and went to one of your talks about landscaping. You suggested a nursery visit every month of the year and to select a shrub that flowers for each month. My question is: What shrub would bloom in the month of August? — PM, Tacoma
A. The hardy hibiscus sometimes called Rose of Sharon is an awesome bloomer for August. The large star-shaped blooms have a tropical look and this shrub comes in many colors. In my own garden, the Rose of Sharon hibiscus has become as large as a small tree. This shrub will flower every August and into September with brilliant white, purple or pink blooms.
News flash: Proven Winners has introduced a narrow-growing hardy hibiscus with deep purple flowers. It is called “Purple Pillar Hibiscus” and grows only 2 to 3 feet wide but up to 6 feet tall. Plant Purple Pillar hibiscus as a hedge or in a container or use the narrow form to flank the entry of a house.
Marianne hosts workshop
Marianne Binetti will speak on “Color for Fall and August Garden Tips” at 11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 20, at Walrath Landscape Supply, 4521 56th St., Gig Harbor. Visit the website for directions.