Late Summer Gardening
The late morning sun streams into Lisa King’s garden as she kneels next to a bed of gladiolas double cropped with late zinnias.
Today, she will clean out all the weeds, mulch the bed with mushroom manure, and spread a thick layer of straw throughout the flower bed. According to Lisa, the best time to weed is always early in the morning. By midday it’s too hot. She laughs and says “I should be done right now.”
Lisa may be almost done gardening for the day, but she wants the readers of Freedom Farms Magazine to know that late summer isn’t the right time to let your garden go. “I hear so many people say I’m done! The weeds can have it!” says Lisa. “Just because it’s the end of the season doesn’t mean you should let the weeds create more work for you next year.”
The key to avoiding a weedy garden next spring, says Lisa, is to get out in the garden and clean it in the late summer and early fall, before the weeds can go to seed. No time to weed the whole garden? Grab a paper grocery bag, go through the garden, and cut off all the weed seeds. For each weed that you are too lazy to pull or prevent from seeding, you will have a thousand weeds next year.
It’s not only weeds that you should be picking from your garden. With school back in session and summer vacation at an end, it’s easy to let your flowers go to seed. However, if you keep your flower beds weed free, and continue to cut the blooms, your ornamentals will continue to blossom for you beautifully through the remainder of the season. Some flowers, such as bee balm, should be cut all the way off; you don’t want the strength going into seed, you want the flowers!
September is also your time to clear your garden spaces of any diseased plants. This year the heavy rains created a lot of blight, so try to cut away any affected portions before the disease can spread. Lisa’s phlox got mildew, so she will cut it way back. The plant will recover and bloom again.
In preparation for next year, any plants that are prone to mold and blight need to be pulled out of the garden. Asters, for instance, can carry mold and fungus, so they should be uprooted and removed from your garden area. Blight-bearing plants should never be composted, because the spores and bacteria can overwinter and return to plague you next year. Instead, burn or discard affected plants far from the garden.
After mowing grass, it’s wise to save the clippings – but don’t put the clippings into the garden! This could spread weed seeds. Instead, create a special green-manure compost pile, where the clippings can break down. You can also use the dried clippings as a safe, chemical-free animal bedding.
Prep your Ground & Plant in Fall
You can get a jump on next year’s gardening by prepping your growing spaces for next year.
You don’t need to wait until the ground thaws in the spring in order to plant such flowers as cosmos, snapdragon, asters, and celosia. Till the ground now and put in your seed for next year.
In case you are worried that winter will make you forget what you planted where, here’s a great suggestion for marking your fall sowings so you can find them again next spring. Take pieces from a clay pot and use black magic marker to write down the names of each planting. It looks beautiful, doesn’t break down, and helps keep confusion at bay come springtime.
Lisa King’s Late Summer Garden List
- Schedule garden work for early in the morning to avoid the heat of midday.
- Call a friend! Gardening work is more enjoyable when shared.
- Cut back perennials in late summer so that they will continue to bloom.
- Skip the gym and go to the garden. It’s a great workout.
- Skip going to the tanning bed and weed in your bathing suit.
- Always remove blighted or moldy stalks. Burn or dispose in garbage.
- Save time next year by removing weeds before they go to seed.