Welcome to Garden Zone, a monthly newsletter for anyone interested in gardening. ​​It's produced by Extension Master Gardener volunteers in Mecklenburg County.

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August Garden Tasks

It's the hot, sultry days of summer. Watering and weeding may be all you think about. Here are some things to add to that list:
Perennials & annuals
✳️ Did you know ferns can become dormant if they get too dry? Check the soil regularly for watering needs.
✳️ Renew annuals by pinching leggy growth and deadheading. Fertilize with a liquid fertilizer, such as fish emulsion, to encourage blooms through the fall.
✳️ Continue to prune perennials to keep in a desired space and for air circulation.
✳️ Start seeds now for fall and winter vegetables.
✳️ Pinch the stems of basil regularly to prevent flowering, and harvest about once a week. Gather herbs for drying as they mature.
Trees & shrubs
✳️ No fertilizing is necessary this month.
✳️ Trees and shrubs should NOT be pruned after Aug. 15.
Lawn & landscaping
✳️ Watch out for yellow patches, leaf curl or poor growth. You may need to increase watering if you see these signs.
Watering tips
✳️ Water outdoor container plants daily, if needed, as they dry out quicker than plants in the ground. Water early morning to prevent mildew from occurring.

Our Favorite Tools

We writers for Garden Zone thought that you might enjoy learning about which garden tools we just can’t live without.  We will weed, saw, prune, dig, chop, haul, and wash our way through our favorite garden tools – some unique, some familiar, and all indispensable.  And you will learn more about how ergonomically designed tools can help alleviate the aches and pains we all suffer from after a long day’s work.  You can also check these out on our FaceBook postings.  Here we go with a few tips and tools that you might want to add to your own collection!

Connie, Gina, Jean, Stacy & Sylvia 

Outdoor Wall Sink


A busy gardening day results in a lot of dirt on your hands, tools, pots, and just picked vegetables – not exactly what you want to bring indoors to clean up.  Here is a handy way to keep the mess where it belongs – outdoors!

The ultimate in convenience is an outdoor wall sink.  Simply mount either of these two varieties next to an outdoor faucet and – voila – problem solved! 

For the budget-conscious gardener who wants to save their money to purchase extra-special plants, this smaller version is a great deal.  It comes fully assembled can hold up to 100’ of 5/8” hose.  There is a drain hose and nozzle holder included. 

The more expensive, deluxe version has a faucet that folds down into the sink, sliding shelves that close to add a work surface, a 4’ leader hose to hook up to the spigot.

Photos courtesy of EMG Sylvia Hindman

I Love My Garden Stool!

I have this amazing little stool; well truth be told I have three of them! One in each section of the yard that I work in. While it doesn’t fold like other popular garden stools, it was only $10 at a discount grocery store! Doesn’t fold, who cares? I can still sit comfortably or flip it over for a comfortable well-padded kneeling experience while planting seeds or flowers and it even has storage inside the seat! I love my little garden stools!

Photos courtesy of EMG Gina Tadle

Lost in the Garden


It is exciting to start digging a hole for a new star in the garden; but it is even more exciting to get the bonus of finding a long-lost trowel or favorite clippers in that hole.   Answering a call or wandering away to solve a problem, sometimes causes us to leave a tool in the mulch or under a shrub.  We are left to wonder, “Where did it go?”  Here is a solution: tie a bright colored plastic ribbon to each tool. The plastic is water repellent and washable and will wave like a flag to say, “Over here!  I am over here!”  

Photo courtesy of EMG Connie Rothwell


Ergonomic Gardening Tools

OH MY ACHING… (you fill in the blank!). According to Tektel Communications, “Ergonomics is the science of designing tools and other work-related products to improve efficiency while reducing discomfort and risk of injury.”  This applies to our garden tools as well.  There are several everyday tools that have been redesigned to provide better body biomechanics and protect us from injury or aches and pains. Injuries that affect muscles, tendons, nerves and joints in our hand, arm, neck and back, and are caused by a combination of applied force, poor posture and repetitiveness. Spades, shovels, pruners, clippers, trowels, rakes, saws… all are now lighter and have better design to meet your needs. They include:

  • Tools that leverage more of the arm muscles and reduce hand and wrist fatigue
  • Tools that have an extending handle to reduce bending and reaching
  • Spring action tools to reduce strain when pruning and cutting
  • Shovels with second handles for more control
  • Tools with manageable weight and size for the job
  • Tools with better and more comfortable grip
  • Gardening seats for easier gardening

Buncombe County Master Gardeners have an excellent video–Gardening for All Abilities–on Therapeutic Horticulture and includes a demonstration of an array of ergonomic tools to consider (ergonomic section starts at 20:46). AgrAbility and the Arthritis Foundation have an informative brochure on Arthritis and Gardening, Virginia Cooperative Extension has a short video on Tools for Disabled Gardeners and the University of Health Services at Berkley provides some Ergonomic Tips for Home Gardening. Take care of your body and it will take care of you so you can continue to garden injury free.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

My Favorite Knife

When I was first starting out as a new Master Gardener, I was also new to Charlotte and was learning what was a weed and what was a valuable seedling. I had to ask about every plant I saw for the first time. And maybe the second and third time I saw them too. About then I was looking for a tool to help me with my weeding and was about to order a hori hori knife. My mentor in weeding, a senior Master Gardener emeritus, suggested instead of the hori hori I try a serrated 12” carving knife from the Dollar Store. That became my “go to” tool, especially for weeds with deep roots that need cutting or that have tap roots. It’s great for Poke Weed and you can also do some on the spot shortening of something you don’t want to dig out. The serrated side works great for trimming a hunk of trespassing grass instead of going for an edger. When it gets dull, I get a new one.

Photo courtesy of EMG Jean Wilson


I Love My Hand Tiller

One of the best investments that I’ve ever made for my garden and my back has to be my hand tiller. I just love that thing! It makes everything from weeding to breaking up compact soil easier. It’s just shy of three feet tall and only weighs about 6 lbs., but boy does it pack a punch.

I can till soil for seed rows, loosen or even breakup compact soil and clay, and then mix my compost and garden soil in with it for planting. It’s amazing! Clearing weeds is a breeze now. No more getting down on my knees and hunching over. I stand upright and turn the handles and the weed roots come right out! The handles have a nice grip, but I wear gloves if I’m going to use it for an extended time. The tines are steel and do a great job of loosening dirt to about 6 inches deep and it has a quick-release plunger to aid in removing packed in soil.  I bought mine a few years ago at one of the large, big box stores for under $40. Yes, one of the best investments for my garden and my back!

Photos courtesy of EMG Gina Tadle

Thinking of becoming a Master Gardener?


The Extension Master Gardener Volunteer program in Mecklenburg County is an intensive, research-based volunteer training program with the intent of training volunteers to assist N.C. Cooperative Extension in delivering research-based educational programming to the residents of Mecklenburg County. After completing the training program, you must complete 40 hours of approved community education service in order to be certified. Interested in learning more or applying for the upcoming 2023 training? Get more information here:


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The Mecklenburg Extension Master Gardener Volunteer (EMGV) program operates under the Mecklenburg Center of the NC Cooperative Extension Service (NCCES), a part of NC State University and NC A&T State University. 

NCCES is a part of Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation.

NC State University and N.C. A&T State University commit themselves to positive action to secure equal opportunity and prohibit discrimination and harassment regardless of age, color, disability, family and marital status, gender identify, genetic information, national origin, political beliefs, race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation and veteran status. NC State, N.C. A&T, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments cooperating.