Now is the time to cut back your perennials and lavender. The key is to cut the flower and only the slightest tips. Here is a before shot. (Andrew May/for Peninsula Daily News)

A GROWING CONCERN: Onward, gardening soldiers, as fall looms!

CAN YOU BELIEVE it’s officially autumn next week (Friday at 1:02 p.m. Pacific time)?

With that said and with still weeks of great weather to follow — as well as the ever-increasing propensity for rain to water all things deeply — let’s celebrate this shifting weather change with two weeks of “to-do lists” because you deserve it.

1. Roses. Stop cutting the flowers. This will help the plant harden for the winter.

Strip away all damaged, diseased and yellow leaves, making sure that all leaves are cleaned up off the ground, as these can be a major source of next year’s disease problems.

When working around these thorny plants, be sure to wear leather gloves or, if you have them, welder gloves!

2. Water water. Now more than ever, even with the rain, you need to keep your plants soaked.

It has been very hot these past two weeks, and that’s on top of already dry soil conditions left over from a hot June.

Your trees and plants sense the days are getting shorter and are ready to start their march to death or dormancy.

Being dry will only seed up the process.

Deep-water all of your trees and bushes, especially the newly planted ones.

Definitely soak your fruit trees so they won’t abort (drop) fruit, and now is a good time to water the lawn with three-fourths of an inch of moisture.

This time of year, if things are dry, they will die.

3. Plant. This is the key to a very successful and colorful fall: Go out this week and next to purchase fall plants.

They are in the stores, and selection and quantity are great. Items bought and planted now will be able to grow and root themselves down.

Get ornamental kales and cabbages, and mix them up with violas and pansy borders.

Get those nice brightly colored mums (pick ones with tight buds, not flowers, so they last a month or more) and find some gorgeous fall perennials like rudbeckia or fall sedum to plant with them.

Select the ornamental grasses now so their tassels will delight you through winter, and do not overlook heathers, hollies, dusty millers, artemesia or even snapdragons and dianthus.

4. Mold/mildew. Menacing mildew and hungry mold arrive with fall. These are on the Peninsula and ready to party in your flowerbeds.

Remove the most infected parts of plants, avoid overhead watering and seek out organic controls such as sulfur and copper.

Also focus on replacing plants with a resistant variety.

5. Bone meal. As we just recently discussed, all of your bulb, corm, tuber and fleshy rooted perennials need phosphorus for good flower production next year.

Bone meal has been used for centuries as a ready, inexpensive and safe-to-use source.

And when these plants are also top-dressed with compost, there is no better fall feed program, so please do this task.

6. Deadhead. You’ve heard it all before, but now that the dew is heavy and the amount of sunlight is getting shorter every day, molds and mildews are out in force, and natural plant cycles want to kick in.

To keep plants blooming, deadhead flower heads now — several times a week, even.

Flowers live to reproduce, so cut away those old blooms, take out the top-growing tip, strip down the big yellow leaves and then cultivate lightly, fertilize and water heavy.

These actions, along with one more sensational growing month, will fool the flowers into a second childhood, having your yard looking marvelous.

7. Buy bulbs. Keep collecting bulbs. I want to see hundreds and thousands of bulbs around the Peninsula because this growing area is supreme for them.

Order them like crazy, then order more. Get tall, short, early, late, single, double, variegated, fringed, fragrant, lovely cut flowers — just order tons of bulbs and do it while the catalogs are fresh.

But do not plant these until October. Our weather here on the North Olympic Peninsula is so mild that when bulbs are planted too early, there is a tendency for them to prematurely emerge.

We don’t want spring bulbs coming up in our mild December, so hold off until Halloween.

8. Pruning. Fall is generally not the time to prune trees and shrubs. Deciduous flowering trees and bushes will lose their blooms for next year.

Fruit trees pruned now will also lose stored food reserves. Evergreens pruned now produce growth that is far more susceptible to winter burn.

If you must get the pruners working, go after dead wood in all of your plants. This cleans them out, and for a few more weeks, you can still see the branches that are dead — just in time before the whole plant goes dormant.

9. Hanging beauty. If you have hanging baskets, it’s the perfect time to snip back the annuals, then add a layer on top of the soil.

Don’t forget to give them some liquid fertilizer for a couple more weeks — usually once a week — to get the last push for floral beauty that they’re all-too-willing to produce for you.

We all certainly notice how dark the mornings are and how quick we lose daylight in the evening, so start noticing what type of yard pickup you need to prepare for, such as covering the outdoor furniture or moving carpets indoor to dry.

Make room in the garage for storing your items because soon, it will be time for fall.


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).

This after shot shows the amount one should take to properly prune lavender. This particular stand is 11 years old. (Andrew May/for Peninsula Daily News)

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