The Late August Garden

Surprisingly, there’s a lot of work to do in the garden now. There are also a lot of jobs that we want to do that we shouldn’t be doing. Here’s the rundown of do’s and don’t’s.

Even though we don’t really feel like it anymore, watering, weeding and deadheading flowers are still important jobs. Since I hate to waste my water on weeds, I always pull them while I’m watering. Many flowers will either keep blooming or start blooming again if you cut away the old seed pods. And for shrubs, like butterfly bushes, that like to seed themselves freely, deadheading means no unwanted seedlings popping up everywhere, as well as continued bloom.

Annuals and vegetables should still be fertilized. I want my flowers and vegetables to bloom and be productive as long as possible. I’m still enjoying all my pots and in ground flowers and I’m still picking vegetables. You can be too. Any perennials that look a little tired can be given a shot of liquid fertilizer to perk them up. Be sure plants are moist before you fertilize them. Salts in fertilizers can burn dry plants.

Don’t fertilize your roses anymore this year, even though they may look like they need it.    Fertilizing will push new growth and you want your roses to start hardening off for winter.  New growth will be tender going into winter, so don’t stimulate any. You can cut rose blossoms and bring them in for another week or two. Pruning too will stimulate new growth. Once we get to the middle of September, don’t cut or deadhead roses anymore.  Just pull spent petals off the blooms, leaving the rose hips in place, and let your roses wind down for the season. Keep rose leaves cleaned up as they drop, especially if you have problems with black spot. Keep spraying your roses until all leaves are gone for the year.

Many people cut their roses back at this time of year. Don’t, for the reasons above. Plus if we have a hard winter that does damage to rose canes, you want nice long canes, so that when you cut away damage there will still be lots of healthy canes left in the spring. Prune your roses in early April instead of in September. You’ll be glad you waited.

Don’t trim boxwoods or Japanese hollies now, even if they look messy. This will stimulate new growth that will freeze and turn brown in cold weather. Wait until cold weather sets in and then you can tidy up your shrubs for winter.

If you want to trim your summer blooming hydrangeas, including the oak leaf hydrangeas and those big leaved varieties that have pink or blue flowers, this is the time to do it. Do not cut them back to the ground or you will have zero flowers next summer. These bloom on old wood and you need to leave the old wood up for the winter. Shape them as needed, but leave as much old wood in place as possible. Other summer flowering shrubs can be trimmed now, or if still in bloom, trim when they finish blooming.

Do not cut spring flowering shrubs back now, if you want any bloom next spring. Do not cut the tips off your lilacs.  This is where next year’s flowers are.  Spring flowering shrubs should be trimmed right after bloom.  Be patient and wait until next spring.

Now is also not the time to trim plants that are at their best in fall and winter.  Don’t cut the berries off your hollies or winterberries now.  Save that trimming for just before Christmas and use the trimmings for holiday decorations.  Don’t cut your yellow or red twig dogwoods back now.  The colored stems are at their best in winter.

Tall fall flowers should be staked now if you haven’t done so already.  Tall asters, monkshood, Japanese anemones, heleniums and other floppy growers can be staked by making cages around them with bamboo stakes and wrapping and tying green twine around the stakes.Several courses of twine will be needed to keep plants in the cages. Staking will keep your flowers upright and you’ll be able to enjoy blooms that haven’t been beaten down by late summer storms.

There are a lot of great fall blooming plants.  If have holes in your border, see what’s available to fill them.  Yes, there are always mums to fill holes, but there are many more exciting plants than mums.

Fall is a great time to plant and transplant.  Wait until the weather cools down more and then have some fun in your garden.


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