Long about August my whole landscape begins to look a little tired. My mulched areas are thinning and weeds are popping up. Things are getting a bit leggy and overgrown. The bloom is off most of my June and July blooming plants. It just looks a bit worn out. While I’m certainly not ready for the cool weather, it’s clear my plants are due for a bit of a rest.
So what’s on my gardening to do list this weekend? My two least favorite gardening tasks: weeding and feeding.
Weeds steal nutrients and water from your landscaping. Along with looking unsightly and raggedy, they’re certainly not anything you want taking over your hard work. It’s important to pull weeds before they go to seed and make the clean-up job even more challenging. My weeds, however, are often a bigger pain.
Broadleaves, wild violets, thistles and the like can put out runners underground and pulling up only part of them just makes the weed problem worse. I’ve found taking a small trowel along with my garden gloves helps in the clean-up process. It’s tempting to toss weeds in the compost pile along with grass clippings and kitchen refuse. Resist the temptation – anything with a seed head on it will just bring more weeds in future years, or even grow weeds right in your compost bed. Be sure to kick the weeds to the curb with the trash.
Take care with fertilizing in August. Some recommend not feeding your roses after August 15 here in Zone 5. Perennials that are looking a bit ragged, however, could benefit from a good pruning and a light fertilizer application. This gives them time to put on some healthy growth before winter. Do not prune spring flowering shrubs like lilacs, as they’ve already set next spring’s blooms.
Flowering shrubs like hydrangeas or butterfly bushes should not be fed this late in the season. They will put on new growth if you feed them now, which will not harden before the cold weather sets in. Your plants could have a good deal of damage next spring.
Blooming annuals can be fed every two weeks during the late summer months, as can your fall blooming plants like hardy asters or mums. Look for a 5-20-10 fertilizer, which is high in phosphorus, or another mix with a high phosphorus count. Those three numbers (5-20-10, or some other variant, like 5-10-10 or 5-7-4) indicate nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium ratios – so look for something with a larger middle number to have a high phosphorus content.
I’m headed to the garden now with my trowel, gloves and pruning shears to get some things cleaned up and set the stage for a healthy fall landscape.
Amanda Zambrano is the director of advancement at Grace Village Retirement Community. She is a master gardener intern, just learning the ins and outs of successful gardening.
Along with her master gardener volunteering, Amanda serves on the board of directors for the Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts, the Symphony of the Lakes committee and a Kosciusko County Community Foundation scholarship committee. She plays flute for the Symphony of the Lakes and enjoys hand-quilting, baking and reading. She is also an occasional blogger. Amanda lives in Warsaw with her husband Dan and her son Alexander.