GARDEN FANATIC:August gardening questions

“I should like to enjoy this summer flower by flower ...” "” Andre Gidé

“What a day for a daydream...” "” John Sebastian

I enjoy designing gardens, and although my own garden is not by any stretch of the most elastic imagination Eden, it is to my own personal paradise.

While gardening, I am free to plan and do as I please, and the pleasure of working outdoors is only matched by the pleasure of daydreaming. In minutia, I conjure garden ideas of transplanting this or growing that, musings of cathartic gardening that purge me of anxieties.


I thought I was dreaming when I saw the city landscaping the Virginia Parkway planters. Kudos to Vic Hillstead, Ken Frank and the residents for brightening up the strip. At this rate of improvement, it won’t be long before Roger has Aliso Creek cleaned up. Read on, and let’s get back to the garden with the Plant Man.

Q. Because of its ease of application, I use a hose end sprayer to apply liquid fertilizer to my plants here in Laguna Beach.

I use Miracle Gro’s 15-30-15 formula for all flowering shrubs, vegetables, and annual flowers, but was told recently to use Miracle Gro’s Miracid with a 30-10-10 formula. Which is better for these types of plants?

A. The original Miracle Gro is formulated to encourage flowers, vegetables, and fruits... exactly the type of plants you are fertilizing. Miracid may be used during non-flowering/fruiting periods to encourage green growth. Stick with the Miracle Gro during the summer to keep your flowers blooming!


Q. Hi Plantman. Should I be fertilizing my cymbidium orchids now?

A. I would recommend a high nitrogen fertilizer like Grow More 30-10-10 every two weeks until the end of August. I would then switch to a 6-30-30 fertilizer, through February, to help initiate flower spikes.

Q. Help. My ficus is dropping sticky stuff on my sofa. What can I do?

A. Your ficus probably has some type of insect attacking it, with mealybugs and scale at the top of the suspect list. These insects feed on the sap of the plant, but are unable to digest all of the sugar they extract. They secrete a fluid called honeydew, which covers the leaves and may continue onto furniture below. Take the plant outdoors, inspect for pests and spray with Orthene every 7 to 10 days until the problem disappears.

Q. I plan to start a vegetable garden in rocky soil. Am I heading for a pratfall?

A. To avoid a rocky start, I would recommend removing as many of the rocks as possible. Rocks don’t present a problem for plant growth or drainage, however they can be a nuisance when you’re planting your veggies or attempting to prepare or cultivate the soil. If there are more rocks than soil in your plot, consider adding topsoil for a raised bed.

Q. Is it OK to prune my flowering plants now?

A. It’s always OK to trim back lightly, particularly plants that have become straggly. Lantana, pelargonium, petunia, and verbena benefit particularly from pruning, as it encourages a more compact growth.


Q. My cucumber plants are covered with a powdery, white fungus. What should I do?

A. Yes, the fungus are indeed among us this summer. The prevailing favorable conditions of humid, overcast weather can spread powdery mildew throughout a garden in a matter of days. The fungus attacks the cucumber leaves and fruit, causing yellowing and even death of the plant in severe cases. I would recommend treating your cucumbers with Daconil on a weekly basis, as long as the disease is a problem. For those wishing an organic alternative, Safer Fungicide is less effective, but less toxic. Be sure to wash the fruit thoroughly before consuming.

Q. What can you tell me about Angel’s Trumpet?

A. Angel’s Trumpet (Brugmansia candida) is from Peru, and produces extraordinary fragrant, trumpet shaped flowers in white, yellow, and apricot. The plants grow quickly, will tolerate some shade, and can become small trees. The lengthy blooming period, from mid-summer until early winter, make this a spectacular, although large specimen for summer gardens.

The garden of my daydreams is quite extravagant, but of course, all gardeners’ dreams should be fanciful. If only I had more time, more space, more money... I could realize the garden of my dreams.

And speaking of dreams, I’m ready to cuddle with Catharine, rocked softly to sleep as we enjoy our hammock down south. See you next time.

  • STEVE KAWARATANI is happily married to award winning writer, Catharine Cooper, and has two cats and five dogs. He can be reached at (949) 497-2438, or e-mail to