While the rush of spring planting is long over, there are plenty of tasks you can do in late summer to promote healthy plant growth in your garden beds, containers and lawn or you can take advantage of the cooler temperatures and plan some new garden beds. Not only is late summer and early autumn a prime time to plant, but you’ll also find plenty of great deals at the garden center.
With the cooling temperatures and increased soil moisture of late summer, consider adding more perennials to your garden. Before you head to the garden center, take a look at your existing plantings. Is there a time when there is a lull in the colour? If so, aim to buy perennials that bloom during this period to bridge the colour gap.
Staying on top of removing spent blossoms is an easy way to keep the garden looking tidy, but it may also prolong the flowering period of perennials like coneflowers and rudbeckia. Remove dead blooms every few days with a sharp pair of pruners.
Pulling weeds as they sprout is the best way to prevent potential weed problems. However, mulching the soil around perennials with compost, grass clipping, or another natural material is an easy way to discourage weed seed germination and growth.
As summer winds down, keep your container gardens going for as long as possible by continuing to water regularly. Dry plants are stressed and produce fewer and smaller flowers, plus they’ll be more prone to insect damage. Regular moisture prolongs the blooming period.
Continue to fertilize pots, planters, and baskets every two weeks with a liquid organic all-purpose fertilizer until mid-September to help them pump out flowers until frost.
Deadheading is an important task in the perennial garden, but also in the container garden. Clip flowers of annuals like marguerites, petunias, African daisies, and geraniums back as they fade.
While late summer may seem like the end of the homegrown harvest, in my garden, the second planting season is in full swing. From mid-August to mid-September I’m sowing seeds for salad greens like arugula, lettuce, spinach, and kale. I’m also planting seed for baby beets, radishes, and turnips.
Continue to water vegetables deeply once or twice a week if there has been no rain. Newly seeded beds will need more frequent irrigation to establish well.
This may seem rather obvious, but regular harvesting of crops like beans, fall peas, and zucchini prompts the plants to continue producing more and will lengthen the harvest season.
Harvest and dry (or freeze) culinary herbs like basil, parsley, oregano, mint, lemon balm. Can or freeze beans, corn, and tomatoes, and pickle excess cucumbers.
Trees and shrubs:
Established trees and shrubs shouldn’t need to be watered, but those that are newly planted benefit from a deep weekly watering if there has been no rain.
Pull weeds as they appear and never let them flower and set seeds in garden beds. Use a bark mulch or another mulching material to minimize weed growth.
If summer flowering shrubs have wayward or crossing branches, or need a general tidying up, the right time to prune is once the flowers have faded. With a sharp, clean pair of hand pruners clip branches back to the main stem or a healthy set of buds.
Late summer and autumn is a great time to add more trees and shrubs to your yard and garden. The warm soil and increased soil moisture allows them to set roots before winter.
In most parts of Canada, the weather of late summer and autumn provides ideal conditions for seeding a new lawn or over-seeding to thicken up an existing lawn. Start a new lawn off right by spreading a four to six inch layer of a good quality lawn soil, sowing seeds with a spreader, applying a turf starter fertilizer, and keeping the area consistently moist until the seeds have germinated and are growing well.
Maintain lawn health by applying an organic lawn fertilizer.
If your lawn is compacted, it’s time to aerate. You can hire a company or rent an aerator and do it yourself. Look for a machine that removes a plug (or core) of soil. Once the lawn has been aerated, I like to apply a scant half centimetre of fine compost or manure to the lawn and rake so that the organic matter works its way into the aeration holes. Overseed if the lawn is thin.