To further emphasize the beauty of fall containers, here are a few in my own backyard featuring the lovely variegated autumn-flowering sedum. (Andrew May /for Peninsula Daily News)

A GROWING CONCERN: Don’t let looming autumn overshadow your chore list

THE “GREAT AMERICAN Eclipse” has come and gone, but don’t let it overshadow the work you need to do in the garden, as August is about to disappear from our view as well.

Many changes are happening in your yard as summer begins to diminish, so it’s time to put down those special solar glasses; pick up rakes, shovels and pruners; and look for the light of day to begin your new set of chores.

1. Prepare for the return. As the heavy dew returns to your yard along with cool evenings, so do the weeds.

And it’s not just the dew that lies heavy on the ground but all that weed seed from surrounding pastures, your neighbors and plants around your garden.

As Autumn approaches and the sun settles even lower in the sky, plants (i.e., weeds) know that now is the time to fulfill their evolutionary quest and reproduce, which means seeds are everywhere.

Be diligent and double down on your efforts to eradicate and prevent weeds, or your yard will be covered with these intruders.

2. Shape it up. Your plants have been busy all summer long growing toward the sun, which means your bushes, shrubs, hedges and trees have seen the light of day and have grown quite rapidly.

Now is the time to “shape prune” them.

This is not a heavy fall/winter prune but rather a branch-out-of-your-eyes prune.

Go around your yard and remove those errant branches in the walkway and those brushing up against the house, hanging over the driveway or slapping your face as you mow.

Do this within the next two weeks because afterward, pruning should cease until late autumn.

3. Gone from sight. Your beautiful lavender plants with their lovely spires of bloom have all but faded from view. Now is the time to deadhead these fragrant plants.

Make sure to remove all the flower heads, which includes the tiny, single leaflets at the base of the plant, but do not prune deep down into the plant. Lavender does not want, nor does it prefer, a heavy prune.

4. Water down. We are in the driest time of year, but your fruit trees are at their highest demand for moisture, as apples, pears, plums, etc., are ripening.

Do not let them wane. Deep water your orchard now and then again in two weeks.

By watering heavy, an inch or more (put a pan down when you water to measure the amount), your fruit will remain crisp and sweet.

5. Make it shine. As we have recently discussed, many of your annual summer flowers are disappearing from sight or very soon shall be far less than a full showing.

Get to the nurseries now, this week, and plant anew your yard with the likes of fall sedums, mums, pansies, violas, ornamental grasses, decorative kales, autumn cabbage, dusty miller, carnations, dianthus, coral bells or whatever the nursery expert suggests for your location.

Let the sun shine down on a new garden for the next several months.

6. A new set of circumstances. With the dawning of a new season, your lawn will soon be growing like a weed as the dew lies heavy upon the grass and the rains soon return.

Now is the time to work over your mower, as it has been busy under the hot summer sun.

Sharpen your blades, as a dull cutting edge shatters rather than severs the blades of grass.

Change out the oil, tighten all the bolts and clean and scrape the old grass that’s plastered itself to the inside of the mowing deck.

7. Prepare for the return. As the sun lowers in the sky and temperatures begin to drop, mice will start seeking a warmer winter refuge.

They have been breeding all season long and will be looking for food (i.e., your gorgeous plants).

The slugs also will make their reappearance with the return of dew, so be very vigilant, since slugs, bugs and vermin want to decrease the shiny beauty of your yard and garden. (Be sure to use safe products.)

8. See the light of bone meal. Next week, we will talk about the virtues of bone meal (phosphorus) for all of your perennial plants. So this week, go out and buy several bags before they are all gone after next week’s article. Do not let demand overshadow your need.

Perform all these tasks soon, and your yard will be in the bandwidth of totality, which in this case, here on the Peninsula, will last for the next two to three months or more, not just two minutes.


Andrew May is an ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email [email protected] (subject line: Andrew May).

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