Column, Looking Back

Gardening this fall

By Mary Ellen Shaw

Well, how did your garden grow this summer? Did you try anything new? Experimenting with new plants is one of my favorite things to do. When the calendar tells me that Labor Day has arrived I know that the gardening season is coming to an end. Summer goes by way too fast!

Every year there is something to learn when it comes to plant selections and the locations where they do best. I usually buy two or three of the same plants and put them in different garden locations. Once I see where they do their best the other plants can be moved to that area if needed.

Transplanting them works best in either fall or spring.

You may have found some empty spaces in your garden by August. That is the month when many of the perennials have died back. The black-eyed Susan loves August so that is always a good choice for late summer color. The Clara Curtis daisy and asters are other perennials that will brighten your garden into September.

Looking ahead to next year keep in mind that you can also fill these spaces without spending a lot of money. Around Memorial Day sow seeds directly into the ground and the flowers should be in full bloom by July and will look pretty into September. Seeds that are easy to grow are zinnias, calendula and nasturtiums. If you grow organic seeds you can add nasturtium petals to a salad. Choose bright yellow, orange or red for a nice touch of color among the salad greens. When winter arrives in a few months you can brighten up a cold, snowy day by “seed shopping.” Keep those flower choices in mind as you make your selections.

Many of our gardens have invasive plants that need to be dealt with every year. One of the worst offenders in my own garden is lily of the valley. It was planted in a neighbor’s garden and it worked its way into one of mine. If it had stayed in that one garden it would have been easier to control. But apparently birds have spread the seeds through droppings and now they are everywhere! I try to “rein them in” a few times every year but getting rid of them is impossible. I dig out as many as I can every fall and again in the spring to make sufficient room for perennials to flourish. I have given up on ever getting rid of them.

The end of the summer is an excellent time to visit garden centers and purchase plants that are on sale. They will have plenty of time for the root systems to adjust to the soil. Plant markers are a good idea so you will remember next spring where everything is. When there is just green showing it’s hard to tell one plant from another. I have pulled up more than my share of the wrong perennials in the spring because their leaves are similar. Marking some of each variety will allow you to take a good look at the leaves and pull up the correct plant.

Once Labor Day rolls around it’s time to add mums to gardens and planters. They are like the “last hurrah!” We have a large window box that extends under our two living room windows and soon the New Guinea impatiens that are currently in them will be replaced with burgundy color mums. The box gets very little sun so they will last about a month. There are always a few nights when frosts are forecast and they will need to be covered. But it’s worth it!

Garden cleanup time is right around the corner. I hope you enjoyed your flowers and veggies throughout the summer and now it’s time to rest and dream about your garden plans for next year!

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