As we move toward August, some of us have received rain, but many are still experiencing abnormally dry conditions. Until normal soil moisture returns, continue monitoring young and newly planted trees to be sure the roots don’t dry out. Perennials planted this spring or any that you have transplanted this year should also be checked. Provide vegetables and annual flowers with 1 inch per week to keep them happy. Established plants should also be watched for signs of stress.

In all situations, water at the base of the plants to keep leaves dry and make sure you’re watering trees and shrubs so they are watered deeply. This will help encourage roots to grow down into the soil, which will benefit you later. You don’t want your trees and shrubs dependent on you for water permanently.

We would like to give a belated but hearty “thank you” to our wonderful plant sale supporters. Each year, our Master Gardeners sponsor a plant sale in May to help support our educational outreach projects related to horticulture including our garden and home grounds hotline. In addition to plants that Master Gardeners donate from their own gardens, many local businesses support the plant sale with donations. We are grateful for their contribution to our work and encourage you to show your appreciation by supporting them throughout the gardening year. Once again, we thank you.

The 2016 donors were DAK Landscape, Palmyra; Walmart, Newark; Grandpa’s Farm Market, Sodus; Wayside Farms, Wolcott; Edgewood Nursery, Macedon; Wayside Garden Center, Macedon; DeFisher Greenhouse, Sodus; Ontario Country Max and Q’s Landscape Enterprises Inc., Newark; Lucas Greenhouses, Fairport; and Spring Valley Greenhouses, Walworth.

Monthly tips

General

Exclude box elder bugs, Asian lady beetles, flies and others now by sealing cracks and openings where they gain entry into homes in the fall. Once inside, they winter in walls and attics and then wake up and come inside in the spring.

Finished compost can be added to vegetable beds as harvests are completed, applied in a thin layer around plants in landscape plantings and spread over lawns in a thin — no more than a quarter-inch layer — to improve soil structure.

Consider impacts on beneficial insects and pollinators if using pesticides. The product label will provide application instructions, including information on reducing impacts on beneficials/pollinators.

Vegetables, fruits and culinary herbs

Decrease conditions for fungus infection. Water vegetables at the base to avoid wetting leaves. Wet leaves are more likely to develop fungus infections. A soaker hose or drip irrigation system is useful for this purpose.

Tomatoes that ripen on the vine have the best flavor. The optimum temperature for ripening tomatoes is 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Steve Reiners, Cornell vegetable specialist. When temperatures exceed 85-90 degrees, the ripening process slows significantly or even stops. Lycopene and carotene, pigments responsible for giving the fruit their typical orange to red appearance, cannot be produced at these temperatures. As a result, the fruit can stay in a mature green phase for quite some time.

Onions are ready to harvest when the tops turn yellow and fall over. Once this happens, pull onions and spread them out in a single layer to cure in a warm, well-ventilated area out of the sun. The curing process will take several weeks. Tops can be removed, but leave 1-2 inches of the top above the bulb. You can also leave the top intact and, once fully cured, braid them for storage. Onion bulbs can be stored in a mesh bag, crate, a pair of stockings (knot between each onion and just cut off what you need below the knot) or other container that provides good air circulation. Store in a cool, dark, well-ventilated area. They keep the longest at temperatures between 32 and 40 degrees. Certain varieties of onion store better than others.

Keep gardens weeded. Weeds compete with vegetable plants for water and nutrients and decrease air circulation. If weeds are large and close to vegetable plants cut them off rather than pulling them. This will cause less disruption to vegetable plant roots.

Fertilize strawberry beds in late August. Apply 1 pound of 10-10-10 per 100 feet of row.

As crops finish, remove garden debris. This helps reduce garden pests and plant diseases.

Pick up and destroy all fallen fruit to help reduce fruit tree pests next year.

Use a garden map and journal to help with management objectives. The map will provide helpful information for crop rotation purposes and the journal can be used to record first and last frost dates, how many plants you planted and how much they produced, what varieties grew well and what ones aren’t worth planting again, any diseases or pests and when they occurred and any other pertinent details.

Trees and lawns

Keep young trees and shrubs watered until established and during drought. Water slowly so water seeps deeply into the soil. This helps train roots away from the surface.

Don’t prune at this time; only remove broken or diseased plant parts.

Lawns

Do you need to treat for grubs? If you have 10 or more per square foot, then the answer may be yes. Numerous grubs, especially on stressed turf, will likely cause damage. Late August is a good time to treat, because the grubs are small and near the surface.

Late-August through mid-September is a good time to renovate lawns, repair bare spots and plant new lawns.

When establishing a new lawn, choose the best grass type for your needs/site. For drought tolerance, or areas that don’t retain much water, consider fescues. Fine fescues are a good choice for shady areas that don’t get a lot of wear and tear. Tall fescues tolerate wear and are good for sunny locations. Fescues are also a good choice for lawns that are maintained at 3 or more inches tall and require limited fertilizer applications. For quick establishment in a sunny location, plant perennial rye, which is good for areas where erosion may occur, such as a steep slope, but does not do well under drought conditions. Kentucky bluegrass forms a tough sod, but is the highest maintenance grass of the group. It may require fertilization 3 or more times a year, is less drought tolerant and is more prone to pests so a bit more maintenance may be required to keep it healthy.

Soil, flowers, houseplants, etc.

If you’ve had fungus problems keep debris cleaned up. Sanitation will help decrease reinfection next season.

Check for orange spots on hollyhock plants, and look for insects and water vacationing houseplants. Start to transition the houseplants to indoor lighting conditions by moving them to shady locations.