Take care of your late-summer gardening chores

By Dawn Pettinelli - UConn Home & Garden Education Center
Featured Article - posted Wed., Aug. 21, 2013
- Contributed Photo

August is harvest time in the garden. Zucchini, cucumbers, summer squash, beans and tomatoes are quickly approaching ripeness. Raspberries are plentiful, corn is tasseling, and annual flowers are in abundance. Most of the weeds have been taken care of. The battle of the bugs continues, and the fresh mint is waiting to grace glasses of mint juleps - or at least be used for herbal sun tea.

Now is the time to renovate tired strawberry beds. Cut back foliage to about one-half-inch above the crowns. Thin rows, leaving only healthy, young, vigorous plants. Weed, then fertilize with 5 pounds of 10-10-10 per 100 feet of row, or an organic alternative. Water well and mulch with pine needles, straw mulch, wood shavings, or herbicide-free grass clippings.

Container plants need some attention now. Remove spent blossoms and sickly leaves. Cut back scraggly petunias, lobelia, alyssum and coleus. Strong new growth will be encouraged. Replace any plants that are doing poorly. You can enjoy your container plantings for another two months or so. Be sure containers have good drainage and fertilize with a water-soluble synthetic or natural organic formulation every 10 to 14 days. Make sure the potting mixes are moist before applying fertilizer to lessen the risk of root injury from fertilizer salts.

Deadhead perennials and remove foliage showing signs of disease. Do not pinch asters, mums or boltonia anymore. Go through your perennial beds and remove any weeds and divide crowded perennials that have finished blooming. Think about adding fall-blooming perennials or annual, like flowering kale, or ornamental grasses to gardens with little or no fall color.

For best selection, order spring-flowering bulbs now. Choose species suitable for naturalizing for an ever-increasing show. My favorites are daffodils, grape hyacinths, crocuses, snowdrops, camassia and wood hyacinths.

Start picking baby’s breath, strawflowers, globe amaranth, artemesia and lavender to air dry for indoor bouquets. Don’t forget to collect some summertime blossoms to fill your vases while you’re at it.

Most lawns have done fairly well this summer. It is always a good idea to raise the mowing height by one-half to 1 inch during hot weather. Leave the clippings in place, as they supply nutrients to the lawn and organic matter to the soil. Keep an eye out for sod webworm and grub problems. Never apply a pesticide to either lawns or ornamentals if the temperature exceeds 85 degrees F.

Going on vacation? Make sure your plants survive your absence. Enlist the aid of a friend or neighbor to water indoor and container plants, if possible. Leave directions as to how often and how much to water. Many houseplants can be watered and placed out of direct sunlight for a week or so. Group container plants together in a shady spot during your absence if no one can tend to them. Wick watering systems or grow boxes are a smart option for frequent travelers.

Take some time during these lazy, hazy days of summer to enjoy your gardening efforts. Sit back, relax and smell the flowers. For questions about midsummer gardening chores, or any other home or garden topic, call the UConn Home & Garden Education Center, toll-free, at 877-486-6271, visit the website www.ladybug.uconn.edu, or contact your local Cooperative Extension Center.

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