What To Do In The Garden: The Dog Days Edition

by Marissa L. Tomasic

Summer always passes by in such a hurry, doesn't it? Autumn winds have begun to cool the night air as we find ourselves at the start of another one of nature's transitions. However, there's plenty of time left to devote to the garden and landscape before mother nature closes the door on another growing season.

Late summer is a grand season for the vegetable garden. Warm season crops are at full yield and all of our hard work is paying off with beautiful bounties of tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, beans and squashes. Continue to harvest often to encourage extended production for these plantings. Keep in mind we are about a month away from our average first frost. Trim the remaining flowers off of your tomato plants to allow for more energy to go to ripening fruits. Overgrown herbs should be cut and preserved, which will allow plants to flush out with one more round of new growth before the season comes to an end. Many vegetable crops thrive only in cool weather; seeds for greens and cole crops should be sown now. Warm soil temperatures combined with cooling air temperatures create the perfect growing conditions for cool season vegetables like kale, spinach, lettuce, broccoli and radishes. Brussels sprouts actually benefit from a frost and can sometimes be harvested as late as January.

Summer annuals will continue to provide colorful blooms right up until the first frost as long as we give them a little encouragement. Trim leggy plants, continue to deadhead, and apply a water soluble fertilizer to freshen up your planters and hangers, or start anew with cool weather annuals like mums and ornamental cabbages. These fall favorites are just beginning to arrive in our nursery yard.

This time of year is ideal for planting new lawns or reseeding existing lawns and eliminating weeds. Grass seed germinates easily in the warm weather but doesn't require the excessive water that hotter temperatures would dictate. Weeds are very mature at this point in the summer, and therefore will absorb a maximum amount of foliar herbicide sprays. Remember to apply these chemicals on a day when winds are calm and temperatures are below 80°f.

Now is also a great time to sow perennial seeds. Growing perennials from seed is a great way to start a perennial garden on a budget, and is easier than most people realize. By starting seeds now, they have enough time to establish before freezing temperatures put them into dormancy. Perennials planted from seed bloom in their second year, so a fall sowing will increase the odds for blooms to enjoy next spring and summer. Rudbeckia, Echinacea, Coreopsis and Columbine are a few of the easiest perennials to start from seed. Remember to be patient, as perennial seeds are often slower to germinate than annual seeds.

And of course, early fall is a great time to plant trees and shrubs. Our nursery yard is still filled with a broad selection of fine specimens, plus you'll be able to get more individualized attention from our staff since there are no big crowds to contend with like there can be in the spring. Lower average temperatures reduce the need for watering as compared to what would be required in mid-summer. New plantings will still need plenty of water to grow roots before the ground freezes, so make sure to

keep the surrounding soil moist for the first month after planting. Starter fertilizer will also give root systems a boost before the cold weather comes.

There's plenty of warm weather days still ahead and we hope you enjoy each remaining moment of summer, in the garden and beyond.