August Landscaping Checklist

August often seems like summer’s end. The school year starts up again, many industries begin their fall busy season, and grocery stores and retail outlets start stocking their shelves high with “fall essentials.” How long until Starbucks brings back their “Pumpkin Spice Latte?” And when does it become acceptable for homeowners to start putting out Halloween decorations? In truth, Autumn is on the horizon, but August isn’t quite a transitional month. In Southwest Virginia, we are still in the dog days of summer; for the next six weeks or more, we’ll likely continue to garden and landscape in scorching heat, drought, and sun. Our plants and yards need continuous protection from the extreme weather that’s yet to come, but it’s also not a bad idea to start preparing your garden for the end of summer before it sneaks up on us. Here are some August landscaping and gardening tips that provide a balance of future-preparedness and present-prevention:

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Greening Up Your Office

Office work is notoriously dull and colorless. When I think of the quintessential office job, I think off the bleach-white cubicles and tetchy copying machines from the 1999 classic blockbuster Office Space. However, for most of us, smashing our printers with baseball bats or embezzling millions is not a viable way of shaking up our boring office routines. A simpler (and less illegal) solution may be to change our office environment: add some color, some personality, and some life to cut through the tedium. Of course, a finely potted plant could never fix the fundamental discontent that comes with having a dead-end job, but, for those of us who manage to stand our jobs most of the time, some green energy can certainly inspire creative thought and heightened productivity. Perhaps that’s why office plants are an increasingly popular addition to cubicles and desks everywhere.

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Water-Saving Landscaping Tips

Though the weather as of late has been hot and wet, droughts are not uncommon during the mid to late summer months. A few weeks without consistent rain can mean disaster for your landscape, especially as daytime temperatures climb into the 90s. That’s why many homeowners chose to install irrigation systems that automatically correct for inconsistent weather and keep grass and plants watered no matter what’s in the forecast. However, it’s no secret that irrigation system hike up water bills. Even manual lawn maintenance gets expensive this time of year. For some, steep water bills make a green summer landscape seem completely unattainable. However, some industriousness and creativity on the side of the homeowner can make all kinds of seemingly impossible feats possible. To help, we’ve created this guide of tips for price-conscious homeowners (or environmentally-conscious landscapers) on how to cut down water usage (and water bills) while still being able to maintain a manicured lawn. Try several of these tips at once for best results. They won’t eliminate your water bill completely, but a few small changes can go a long way in landscaping:

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Keeping Your Property Safe from Fireworks

Though Independence Day was one week ago, the reverberating celebrations can still be heard throughout the valley. In fact, the entire month of July could effectively be dubbed Firework Season, because the same phenomenon seems to happen every year: Folks go to Walmart or some other firework distributor in the weeks leading up to Independence Day and, in their patriotic excitement, buy enough colorful dynamite to take down a skyscraper. Thus, for the entirety of the month of July, a loud processional of firework detonations can be heard most every night, somewhere. After all, one can’t let hundreds of dollars of fireworks simply go to waste. It would be un-American.

For that reason, it’s imperative that fire-safety procedures continue to be put into practice long after The 4th of July has passed. Unfortunately, July in Southwest Virginia tends to be hot, dry, and very flammable. One ill-fated spark could easily set an entire landscape aflame. Luckily, there are several ways to prevent these kinds of disasters from occurring, and they can be utilized year-round:


Photo by Kevin Muncie.

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Tips from Mark Burton: Soil Conditioners

Here in Southwest Virginia, thick and compact clay soil dominates yards and gardens. Clay soil, while amendable to many native species of plants, can give gardeners and landscapers trouble when it comes to adding new plantings. Clay drains slowly, has trouble absorbing water and nutrients, and it becomes compacted more quickly than looser soil. That’s why soil conditioners like compost and fertilizer are so essential to healthy, green lawns and gardens. Without them, we probably wouldn’t be able to grow many of the plants and grasses we see on a daily basis.

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