August to-do list for your garden

By Rebecca Jepsen
for the Mercury News
August 2, 2008

Control ants by storing food in airtight containers and clean up any food crumbs or spills. Keep ants out by caulking cracks and crevices that provide entryways into your home. If necessary, use bait stations that use boric acid, but be sure to place them out of the reach of children and pets. If ants are a problem on shrubs or trees, exclude them by banding the trunks with a product such as Tanglefoot. For complete details on ant control, go to:

Fire blight affects apples, pears and related ornamental plants. Tips and branches appear burned and often there is a dark, oozing liquid. Prune off at least 8-12 inches below the infected area. Discard all diseased wood, and clean pruners with a bleach solution after each cut.

Prune hydrangeas to control size and shape. Cut off older stems that have flowered. For large flower clusters, reduce the number of stems. For lots of smaller flowers, keep more nicely spaced stems.

Bees and wasps can be aggressive when defending their nests, so avoid those areas. When eating outdoors, keep food covered. Place a piece of meat or an opened can of soda a good distance away from your table to lure them away.

Tomato russet mites suck fluids from the cells of leaves and stems. The damage they cause usually starts at the base of the plant and moves up, causing leaves to yellow and die, and stems to turn a bronzy color. If not controlled, these tiny pests can kill plants. At the first sign of damage, treat with sulfur dust or a spray solution of wettable sulfur mixed with a spreader-sticker. For complete details, go to:

Tomato psyllids inject a toxin that causes leaves to curl on pre-flowering plants, and stunting and yellowing of leaves on flowering plants. If untreated, this pest can kill the plant. Adults are very small (1/10 of an inch) and resemble cicadas. They lay white eggs which quickly turn pink on the undersides of leaves. For organic control, a Spinosad spray such as Entrust can be used. Go to: for details.

For our complete list of August gardening tips, visit

What to plant now

Transplants: arugula, beets, spinach, beans, Brussels sprouts. Local nurseries should have a good supply of most of these.

Seeds: See above.

To find a list of cool-season vegetables that do well in Santa Clara County, go to or call the hotline.

— Rebecca Jepsen, Santa Clara County Master Gardener.