August is an interesting month, in the garden. Just as the late summer stunners are getting set for their close-ups, the rest of the garden seems to know it’s time to slow things down. It’s certainly not the end of the season yet, but things are definitely winding down. It’s the perfect time to take stock of what worked and what didn’t. That’s what we tackle in this week’s podcast. Listen in, or keep reading for the full write-up.
I hate to say it, but we’re hitting the final stretch of summer. And my garden is showing it. That stretch of hot, dry weather took its toll on some of my earlier bloomers and annuals. The bleeding heart has finally started its yellow decent into dormancy. The calibrachoa and petunias in containers are sulking and refusing to bloom. And it’s time for the tomato leaves to start doing their ugly thing at the base of the plants. Which means it’s also time to do a little selective pruning and planning..
It is definitely cleanup and editing time in the garden, but while I’m doing that, I like to use the month of August to do a quick appraisal of how things are going in the garden. I do a general overall sweep, looking for things like:
❦ What sections are out of color and interest?
❦ Which plants have outgrown their space and need dividing or moving?
❦ Are there sections that didn’t thrive and might need some soil amendments?
❦ Did the rabbits or groundhogs try to invade a new area that needs reinforcement?
❦ What plants thrived? Where they new?
❦ Any combinations I’d like to photograph, to remember to repeat?
❦ What weeds were particularly noxious and when’s the best time to attack them?
❦ Any diseases that reoccur that I should put on my watch list?
❦ What vegetables did I have in over-abundance and what should I plan to plant more of?
There are more questions and I’m sure you have many qualifications of your own.
When it comes to evaluating plants, one trick I really like using at this time of year- or any time of year really – is to take a black and white photo of the flower borders. Without the distraction of color, you can really see whether there is a good mix of textures, if there is a balance of forms and shapes, or if your garden is just a muddle of feathery foliage. Sometimes the answer to your garden design dilemma is hiding behind the colors. This is a good trick to do as your garden is just reaching its peak.
The cooler weather and, I hope, more regular rain are just around the corner. I don’t dread them, because fall is some of the nicest gardening weather you could ask for and unlike spring, there aren’t a thousand things calling for your immediate attention. So it’s nice to make some notes ahead of time about what you want to focus on, to be ready to jump in when that first crisp morning calls you back out to the garden.
I hope summer lingers long this year and fall imposes on winter’s calendar time. Let’s enjoy this subtle shift in the seasons. This is the time of year that teaches us the most about our gardens.