We are heading into the home stretch of 2016, and September can be a spectacular month for the garden. Many flower beds have that tired, fatigued and worn out appearance. And rightfully so, since the summer garden has been producing since late May. Between the stifling heat and daily rains which have left some areas soggy, the annuals need a facelift. Many annuals such as coleus, zinnias, and cleome, can be pruned back and with some liquid fertilizer, are ready for the second act in late September. If you have let some of these annuals go to seed, they are now on life support and can not be resuscitated. We can still pull out the zinnias, and reseed these areas. They will bloom by mid October and go about their business until the cold takes them down.
If you have geraniums, and begonias, cut these back now, but use a liquid fertilizer. These will bloom their hearts out in the fall. They and petunias glory in cooler nights. Why do I suggest feeding these plants with a liquid fertilizer? The answer is the heat. With high 90 degree temperatures, stronger fertilizers could very easily burn the roots. That is fatal to the plant. Osmocote, a timed release fertilizer is the exception.
Besides some of our plants being weary, some of our gardeners get weary of moving forward with a fall garden. Let's not think of gardening as hard work with pulling weeds, planting, pruning, refurbishing or tilling soil, and getting our hands dirty. Let's think of all the positive attribute of gardening. Consider gardening as a vehicle to reconnect with nature which relieves stress, or a method to help feed pollinators, also a means to provide herbs and vegetables, or as the supreme expression of one's creativity. Whatever we think of gardening, the bottom line is that gardening should be FUN.
This summer I found at a garden center a tray of foxglove or Digitalis. Lucky me, for I planted some in pots, and others in a semi shady area of the beds. These foxglove will have plenty of time to produce a healthy root system, winter over and be show stopping beautiful next spring. These are, of course, biennials which do not bloom the first year, bloom the second season, then die. Delphinium is another spectacular biennial available at nurseries or garden centers. Get as many as you can get your hands on and plant immediately. Their blooms are all shades of blue to almost a white blue. Most of the old fashioned varieties have to be staked, but this is a small effort compared to the heavenly display in spring.
If we see large empty areas where we have to pull out this month, one reliable filler would be mums. Do not purchase small 4" pots of mums, they will not have time to get large enough to fill in. To properly grow mums, the smaller plants would have to be planted in early spring, disbudded of bloom heads in June so that they have time to grow and bloom in the fall. So the solution is to buy bigger pots, plunge into the empty spots and enjoy.
HAPPY LABOR DAY AND GOOD GARDENING!