It’s Late Summer: What You Should Be Doing in Your Garden

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In some places in the country, hints of fall are on the doorstep, while in others, the summer sun continues to beat down hard. No matter where you live, there are certain things that you need to be taking care of in your garden now. Some of these things will ensure that you have a solid fall harvest, and others will ensure that you prepare your beds for the next season to come. Either way, here is a great checklist to help you give your late summer garden the love it deserves.

Weeding and deadheading

You may notice that some of your plants are starting to look at bit scraggly and tired. At this time, weeds are going gangbuster and require constant attention. Staying on top of weeding as the season comes to a close will help reduce the number of weeds you will have next year. 

To keep your perennials and container gardens looking their best, keep up your daily deadheading. Popping off old flowers makes room for new growth and buds to form. Everbearing plants will also keep producing flowers. Also, pinching back vigorously growing perennials will help keep them from going to seed and taking over your garden.

Harvesting, make room and fill

Although your cool-season crops like lettuce and radishes may be over, in some parts of the country, warm-season crops like tomatoes and squashes are just getting to their prime. Harvesting your ripened cucumbers, cabbage, broccoli, and carrots will bring more flowers to be pollinated.

At the same time, browning plants may be pushing for one last bloom. Clean out dying portion and anything rotten or brown to help eliminate more work later. This will also help existing plants continue to grow well into the season. A shot of early cold weather may encourage these healthy plants to produce one final round of flowers. 

While cleaning up, don’t leave a lot of open space for weeds and pests to set in. Use a dense cover of mulch or plant a groundcover to fill in empty spaces. 

Create or tend your compost pile

Nothing is quite as rewarding to a gardener as a healthy compost pile. If you have not yet created one for your home garden, there is no time like the present to get moving. A compost pile provides not only a place for kitchen scraps but also a place for your yard scraps, rotted veggies, and leaves that you are clearing out of your yard and gardens. By the time you pick your last harvest, your compost pile will be ripe and ready to spread over your empty beds, allowing it to enrich your soil for next year. If you already have a compost pile, now is the time to add to it in preparation for fall spreading.

Fall planting

If you are lucky enough to live in a growing zone where you get a third planting, now is the time to think about what you will plant. As temperatures become cooler, plants such as kale, arugula, mustard greens, spinach, and lettuce will produce a robust crop before cold weather sets in. Sow seeds into the ground and keep them covered and moist to facilitate sprouting. In hardier zones where the weather will stay warm for longer, you can plant beets, broccoli, cabbage and radishes from seed as well. Even if you don’t live in an area where you get a third harvest, consider planting a nourishing cover crop that will add vital nutrients back into your soil.

Give your trees, shrubs, and perennials some love

Now is a great time to love on your trees, shrubs and perennial plants. Don’t fertilize, as this will encourage new growth. It is time, instead, to prune perennial plants, trees, and shrubs once they are finished blooming. If you have trees and shrubs that are still growing well, provide lots of water, especially if you live in warmer areas.

Enjoy your garden

If you live in an area that is soon to be cold, now is the time to soak in all of your garden goodness. Take frequent walks through your garden and spend time enjoying your final harvests and the little chores you have to do before fall and winter set in. Consider keeping a garden journal or taking photos to capture the best of your outdoor garden season

-Susan Patterson

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