When September arrives, it may still feel like mid-summer in Zone 5 / 6. Forecasts might call for temps touching the high 80’s, but just because the calendar shows we’re approaching Labor Day and the kids are back in school … there are many beneficial things to still do in the yard. A late summer garden refresh is in order …
One of my favorite things to do this time of year is scouting out bargains at the garden centers and online nurseries. Often shrubs, trees, and perennials are marked down and can be purchased for a fraction of their spring prices. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love a bargain!
Avoid the plants that are too potbound and seek out their healthier counterparts. I’m hoping to find a hydrangea for a partly shady corner of our garden. I love the large colorful flowerheads and the dried flowers can be kept on the shrub for winter interest.
Here are my Top 6 late summer garden refreshers:
1.) Pruning –
By early September your garden can look a bit bedraggled. Containers can be overgrown and overflowing, shrubs may need a good haircut, certain perennials are lobbing over looking tired and well worn. Continue pinching and deadheading your flowering plants. Keep the beds clean of debris and get a leg up on those fall chores.
One benefit of pruning is that it stimulates plant growth. Most of my annuals are still blooming strong and the perennials are getting ready for another burst. Shape up your shrubs to keep them in check and looking good.
Now is not the time to prune or fertilize roses. You don’t want them to get a big flush of new growth right in time for the first frost. Also do not prune spring-blooming shrubs or perennials now, because you’ll remove new growth where they will bloom next year. Dead or diseased parts of plants can always be pruned out …
2.) Weeding –
As it turns out, fall is a perfect time to get on top of pesky plants like weeds. While it’s not a very enjoyable chore, it does have a nice payoff: effort you make now gives your gardens a stronger start come next spring. Yay!
Try and pull weeds before they set seed to prevent even more weeds next summer. Also, don’t throw weeds in your compost pile … toss them in the garbage so they aren’t re-introduced into your garden.
3.) Watering –
Continue watering your garden (if it doesn’t rain) to encourage roots to probe deep for nutrients and moisture. Water in the early morning, if possible. Evening sprinkling can cause fungal problems on plants and invite diseases.
4.) Planting –
Look for bargains online and at the local garden centers. Late summer / early fall is often a good time to plant trees, shrubs, and perennials, so they can build deep roots before the next growing season.
You can grow a number of cool-season vegetables now. Just be sure to count back from your first frost date when you plant, so you can harvest the food before it gets too cold outside. Soon it will be time to plant bulbs for a great display next spring. (see my posts on fall bulb planting and fall vegetable gardening for more details and ideas)
5.) Refresh Your Containers!
After removing your summer annuals past their prime, fill in the gaps with some cool season bloomers in an array of fall colors. Although they may look tender and delicate, lovely pansies are actually some of the most cold-tolerant annual flowers. The orange, purple and golden yellow ones look great in a container.
Another look I love is coleus with mums and ornamental peppers. Consider adding one or more textural ingredients to your containers for height and interest … like plants with berries, twiggy branches, tall grasses or broad foliage.
6.) Lawn Renovation –
This is the perfect time to renovate any bare or thin patches in the lawn with overseeding. If you do put down seed, be sure to rake away any excess thatch layer or dead grass first to create good seed-to-soil contact. Cover your newly seeded area with a thin layer of compost. I like this better than straw. It’s cheaper, better for the lawn, plus looks better in my opinion. Water the newly seeded areas daily until they fully germinate (unless you get rain naturally).
Look closely around your yard … you will most likely see areas that could use a pick-me-up. Annuals past their prime, leggy perennials, unsightly bare spots …etc. After a little pruning, clean up, planting some cool tolerant specimens and overall sprucing your garden can look refreshed and rejuvenated. It will make you feel good too!
Enjoy the end of summer and warmer weather while it lasts and look forward to fall’s cooler temperatures and colorful, autumnal show!