August Garden Planner

Flocking to the Garden
The 37-acre San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas also is a mecca for birds and, thus, birdwatchers. At 8 a.m. on the first Monday of each month, the public is invited to join “Bird Ladies” Rita Campbell and Sue Smith to glimpse and note winged visitors around the garden. Since they began keeping records 15 years ago, 136 species have been spotted, with new additions annually. About three dozen species regularly nest there. Because the group gathers before the garden opens, no admission is charged. Bird checklists are for sale at the garden gift shop for bird lovers who want to wander the garden on their own. More information, including lists of birds sighted over the years, is at

Mellow Yarrow
Carefree yarrows (Achillea) are workhorses of summer gardens, whether as a lawn replacement, cutting-garden flowers or partner for swaying grasses. Most are water-wise once established, tolerant of many soils, and magnets for bees and butterflies. Flat clusters of tiny flowers range from pink and lavender to bright gold and paprika red. Deadheading keeps them blooming through the season’s heat and into fall. A classic to try is 2-foot-tall-and-wide ‘Moonshine,’ with pale yellow flowers above gray-green, aromatic foliage. Hybrids developed from California’s native yarrow (A. millefolium) also are good choices. Look for white-flowered ‘Calistoga’ or rosy ‘Island Pink.’ More unusual hybrids include ‘Apricot Delight’ and ‘Cerise Queen.’ Mat-forming, wooly yarrow (A. tomentosa) will cover small areas with its fuzzy foliage and can survive limited foot traffic. Look for all at area nurseries.

Fruitful With Less Water
This year’s Festival of Fruit, organized by the San Diego Chapter of California Rare Fruit Growers, shines a light on water-wise orchard practices. The event — Aug. 7-9 at the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation — includes a marketplace,
fruit tastings, displays, educational demon-strations, garden and nursery tours, and a plant sale (details are at In addition to water conservation, speakers will emphasize drought-tolerant fruits that thrive in the Southwest, says Gregg Hansen, co-president of the San Diego chapter. Here are five he recommends for sweet pickings with minimal water use.

Olive — In this era of urban farming, fruit-ing olive trees are back in fashion among gardeners who want to cure their fruit or press the olives for healthful oil. Willowy good looks add to the appeal of the tree, an icon of Mediterranean climates like ours. They can grow 25 to 30 feet tall.

Sapote — The creamy, custard-like flesh with peach and banana flavors inside these small, green-skinned fruits is delicious, Gregg says. Trees grow 20 to 25 feet tall with a dense canopy. They can be hard to find; look for them at the Festival of Fruit.

Dragon Fruit — Also known as pitaya, this egg-shaped cactus fruit is the latest favorite at juice bars and organic markets. Purple-pink skin covers the refreshingly sweet, white or pink flesh peppered with small seeds. Give its long, thorny branches a
trellis to climb.

Fig — This handsome tree grows quickly to more than 20 feet tall, but can be pruned to keep it small. Purple, yellow-green or brown fruit can be eaten fresh or dried. ‘Mission’ and ‘Brown T urkey’ are most commonly grown. CFRG members like ‘Striped T iger,’ ‘Violette de Bordeaux’ and ‘Desert King.’ Fig trees are easily grown from cuttings.

Pomegranate — Native to the Middle East and widely grown in countries with Mediterranean climates, pomegranate trees bear showy red flowers in spring and red fruit and golden foliage in fall. “You can almost ignore them once established,” says Gregg, who’s a fan of seedless ‘Eversweet.’ Others to try are ‘Wonderful’ and ‘Ambrosia.’ Prune to keep this deciduous tree small for easy picking.

Timing Matters
Pick vegetables too early or late and you miss out on peak homegrown flavor. In general, the more you pick, the more you get. Here’s when to harvest some favorite crops.
Corn — Tassels start to dry and a milky liquid flows from kernels popped with a fingernail.  
Eggplant — Shiny skinned, immature fruit
is best; dull-skinned is past its prime.
Zucchini — Pick before they are 6 inches long; they lose flavor when they get too large.
Green beans — Pick as pods start to swell and still snap when broken in half.  
Watermelons — Tendrils where melons attach to vines wither and the underside turns pale yellow.  
Cantaloupes — The skin changes from gray-green to buff and stems separate from the fruit.
Peppers — Mature color depends on the variety; check seed packets or references.

An App for Emergencies
Fight this year’s heightened wildfire danger with a handy new tool: the SD Emergency App. The program makes disaster prepared-ness information accessible on your smart phone. The free app also delivers updates on emergency situations, as well as incident maps and locations of shelters. More information and download links are at

Budding Artists
Floral artist René van Rems (one of this magazine’s Stars of San Diego and the designer behind the San Diego Museumof Art rotunda for April’s Art Alive) will lead a team of floral designers in festoon-ing San Diego Botanic Garden for its 16th Annual Gala in the Garden. More than 10,000 stems will splash color and fill the air with sweet scents during the Sept. 12 fundraiser. In addition to the floral designs, gourmet food from local restaurants, wine, craft beer and live entertainment will greet guests along the garden trails. This year’s Paul Ecke Jr. Award of Excellence will be bestowed upon Tony and Sue Godfrey, owners of Olive Hill Greenhouses in Fallbrook. For more more information and tickets, visit

Seeds of Tomorrow
Take advantage of summer’s gardeninglull to order seeds for cool-season edibles. Seed companies offer great variety, especially for organic or heirloom fans and foodies seeking unusual produce. Good sources include Territorial Seed Co. (, Johnny’s Selected Seeds (, Renee’s Garden Seeds (, Botanical Interests (, Seed Savers Exchange (, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds ( and The Cook’s Garden ( Along the coast, broccoli, cabbage, kale, peas and cauliflower can be started from seed at the end of the month. Inland, it’s best to wait until late in September. Keep small plants evenly moist and feed once or twice a week for strong transplants.

Juicy Reading
Scott Daigre, who produces Tomatomania seedling sales at San Diego Botanic Garden, The Water Conservation Garden and dozens of other locales around the nation, shares his tomato-growing expertise in a newbook, Tomatomania!, written with Jenn Garbee (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2015). Included are recipes and tips for making the most of bountiful harvests.

And don’t forget to:
• Monitor containers during heat waves to ensure plants get sufficient water.
• Pinch flowers off basil plants to keep them producing flavorful leaves through fall.
• Check on plants added to the garden during the past few months. Because they are still getting established, they may need extra watering to survive.
• Make a list of bulbs to add to your landscape now
so you’re ready to purchase them when they arrive in nurseries next month when the selection is best.
• Clean up fallen fruit around trees to discourage
rats and other uninvited visitors.
• Clear brush to protect your home should wildfires erupt.
• Feed tropicals and other heat-loving plants that are growing now. Water thoroughly before applying fertilizer.
• Deeply water your compost heap, then cover it with a tarp to hold in moisture critical for decomposition.
• Harvest everlasting flowers like baby’s breath, globe amaranth, statice and strawflowers to dry and use in arrangements later in the year.




Categories: Gardening