See Marianne Binetti Live: Marianne Binetti will speak at 11 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 20. Her free seminar is “Dirt Cheap Tips and Gardening Shortcuts” at the Auburn Transfer Station. For details, visit www. AuburnFarmersMarket.org.
The last half of August is a good time to prune back raspberries that are done producing fruit, harvest herbs and early vegetables and continue to deadhead or remove the faded flowers from annuals and perennials to keep them in a blooming mood.
The dog days of summer are when gardeners are looking to sniff out some money-saving bargains and cut back on maintenance.
If you can’t attend the free garden seminar at the Auburn Farmers Market on “Dirt Cheap Gardening,” here are a few of the favorite penny-pinching tips that I’ll be sharing:
Don’t buy more potting soil – reuse this year’s soil next spring
Just be sure you aerate and add some nutrients in the form or compost or fertilizer to old potting soil before you recycle it back into your containers.
One practical approach is to empty all your pots into a wheelbarrow or on top of a tarp in the spring.
Turn the old potting soil to help aerate the mix as winter rains can compact potting soils. Remove any large roots and dead plants.
Next, add compost to the old potting soil and mix well. The amount of compost to add depends on if you are growing thirsty plants like fuchsias and begonias (add 25 percent compost) or plants like geraniums that prefer a quick draining soil. (Use just 10 percent compost for plants that hate dampness.)
Once the potting soil looks fluffy, dark and aerated again it is ready to place back into your containers.
Turn grass clippings and fallen leaves into a free weed-blocking, water-saving mulch
Creating a nourishing, weed-blocking mulch does not have to be complicated. In the fall, rake brown leaves and stuff them into a large, plastic garbage bag.
When the bag is half full of brown leaves, add one shovel of soil and two shovels of green grass clippings.
Then fill the top half of the plastic bag with more fallen leaves.
Close the bag.
Grab a screw driver or pair of scissors and madly stab the plastic bag all over to make air holes.
Store the bagged leaves out of site until spring.
In a few months you’ll have a weed blocking bag of leaf mold to layer under shrubs and on top of weeds.
Leaf mold as a mulch on top of plants not only cuts back on your water bill but is a free and natural fertilizer.
Free shrubs: August is the month to make new plants from your favorite shrubs
This month you can take tip cuttings of camellias, daphne, hydrangeas, magnolias, nandinas, viburnums and rhododendrons. You can make a cutting and root just about any shrub this month but those listed above are the easiest for beginning propagators.
• Strip leaves from the lower half of a branch tip cutting that is about as long as a pencil;
• Dip the cut end of the shrub into a rooting hormone powder before you poke it into a pot of soil. (Here’s a money-saving bonus option to make your own rooting solution from willow water.
Remove the leaves from the willow branch tips, remove the leaves and put one-inch segments in a jar.
Once the jar is half full of cut willow tips add tap water to fill the jar.
Leave willow tips in water for three nights.
The salicylic acid from the willow will leach into the water and this is the magic ingredient that encourages new cuttings to take root.)
• Let the shrub cutting sit in the willow water for three nights;
• Poke the cuttings into a soil mix that is half potting soil and half sand.
Four cuttings into each one-gallon container is about right.
One out of the four should take root.
Cover the top of the pot with a plastic bag or mist daily to keep the air humid.
Place the pot in a bright spot out of direct sun.
In the winter move the pots to a protected area so they don’t freeze.
In May, your shrub cuttings will have roots and you can transplant them into their own containers, move them into your garden — or start a nursery.