August is the month of laurels, larvae and lawn dye | THE COMPLEAT HOME GARDENER

The middle of August provides a last chance to clip and trim broadleaf evergreen shrubs before winter. In Western Washington the most common evergreens for hedging are the laurels (Portuguese Laurel, Otto Luken laurel and English laurel) with their shiny green leaves and Photinia fraseri with red new growth each spring.

If you prune laurels in August the plants will have time to regrow over the pruning stumps before winter sets in. Use hand pruners to make cuts behind the foliage, removing entire branches. Hedge trimmers will cut the large leaves into pieces and leave a mutilated look.

Q. We have a rain barrel to conserve water. Actually it is oval, metal stock tank and it stores lots of water. The problem is we see tiny critters swimming that we were told are mosquito larvae. We do use this water on our vegetables. Anything safe we can spray to get rid of the mosquitoes in the water? C.H., Redmond

A. Yes. Home centers and local nurseries sell “Mosquito Dunks” that look like floating doughnuts and slowly release BT (bacillus thuringiensis) into the water to attack baby mosquitoes. This natural product is chemical free and safe for plants, fish and pets. You can use mosquito dunks in any standing water such as bird baths, gutters or water features.

Q. My lawn has turned brown because I have stopped watering it. I don’t want a high water bill. Is it true that my lawn will turn green again in the fall when the rains return? I need this in writing for a certain busybody in our neighborhood. You can sign me “Dirt Cheap” in Enumclaw.

A. Dear Dirt Cheap – your brown lawn is not dead. It has gone dormant without extra water and will green up when the rains return. You can call it “golden” instead of brown or look into lawn dyes that can be sprayed onto brown lawns. Dye Grass and Spray Green are two trade names.

Warning: I have not tried these “instant green” lawn paints myself but many lawn care professionals rely on lawn dyes like these to keep summer lawns green.

Let us know how they work out for you.

Q. How does one divide Oriental poppies? I was told August is the best time to divide poppies and I have a large clump I would like to share. S.S., Kent

A. Dig into the middle of the poppy patch with a sharp shovel. Then divide the half you remove into half again to separate your large clump into fourths. The Oriental poppies have huge blooms and a deep tap root so make sure you dig straight down to get as much of the root as possible. Dividing any perennial will be easier if you soak the soil with water the night before and do the digging and transplanting on a cloudy day or early in the morning when the roots are full of moisture. Don’t worry if the top growth of foliage turns yellow and dies after the transplant operation. Your poppies may pout or get all dramatic and drop leaves but they will adjust after a winter time-out and be on their best blooming behavior by spring.

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