ANDREW MAY: Now’s the time to look ahead to fall

What is it you want from the garden, or what do you wish to accomplish? This is the essence of what drives chores that need to be done as the year moves from mid- to a late demarcation.

WITH MID-MID-SUMMER LOOMING, now is the time to start making many decisions concerning the garden.

What is it you want from the garden, or what do you wish to accomplish?

Ponder this question very carefully. It is the essence of what drives the chores that need to be done as the year moves from mid- to a late demarcation.

If you want a continual source of food, you need to decide what areas are to be next year’s flowers. If you want to keep the plants thriving, then the end of summer is the time of constant care.

Late summer is a week away, so as you walk around the garden in the next couple of weeks, look for plants that are troubled.

Because fall’s official start is 45 days away, now is the time to start preparation for many fall plants and crops.

Vegetable gardens are the prime spot for this concept.

As your beets, radishes, lettuces, broccoli, whatever is growing matures, pull them (great compost) and plant fall crops. Peas would be great now, as they take two weeks to germinate and emerge. That would have them growing for a fall harvest.

Fall frost in the foothills

Those of us like me who live in the foothills should realize frost comes earlier at higher elevations and begins in earnest the fall garden.

Perfect fall crops are lettuce, radishes, onions, beans and any number of greens.

Remember, work these areas just like spring.

Add compost, fertilize and weed.

Make sure you cultivate the soil very well and keep it moist.

Over in the flower beds, it is much the same. As flowers fade on perennials, cut them back and companion-plant fall plants.

I especially like to plant ornamental kale and cabbage among the lilies. Not only is the flower head of the lily cut off when it is done blooming, but as the kale matures for the fall, the lily stalk deteriorates, then in the spring, the kale is pulled and composted, making way for the lilies again.

Many annuals will soon be fading. Zinnia start to succumb to disease, various individual plants start a downward spiral, the pansies have overstretched and many plants have been damaged by a host of problems — kids and pets included.

By getting cool-tolerant plants in the ground soon, their roots will have plenty of time to develop in the warmth of summer. This growth will pay off in a great display.

Use violas, dusty miller, kales, cabbages, carnations, fall sedums, pansies, petunias and veronica, and don’t forget chrysanthemums.

Pinching and pulling

Pinching, deadheading, pulling old leaves (stripping) and working the soil are musts during this period of summer.

As you look around the garden, find these beds that look great. If you want to keeps these plants in bloom, stay on top of them.

I cannot emphasize enough (but I will try yet again) the advantage of removing old flower heads. Time of year, dead and dying blooms kill the plant because the plants genetically know fall is coming.

The plant needs to produce seeds, and in the case of annuals, they are geared toward one growing season.

Pinching them down now (removing at least one set of leaves along with the tip) resets them for a new bloom cycle.

Nutrients (i.e., fertilizers)

Our soils on the Olympic Peninsula are nutrient-poor. The coming of fall signals a key time for fertilizing.

It takes most granular fertilizers two to four weeks or more to become available to the plant. Thus, applied now, they will not release to the plant until September.

Coupled with this is the fact that all your watering since May has leached the nutrients down through the soil.

The plants now are lush and in full production. Keep the plant food coming. Many gardeners and all greenhouses know that water-soluble straight through the hose has enormous benefits.

Weekly foliar feeds will give your plants what’s needed to fully maximize summer. When spreading granular fertilizers, make sure you water thoroughly so as to wash all the fertilizer off the plant.

With plants so lush and summer sun shining down, it is easy to burn your plants.

Many plants also have specific nutrient needs in order to bloom next year. Perennials and your lawn will undergo their major root development in the fall and soon will need to be fed.

Bulbs, especially those planted longer than a year ago, almost always require a fall feeding to produce flowers for next year, so use a booster fertilizer such as 9-9-6; this formula is superb.

Bone meal is also a great garden secret for any tuber, corm or bulb. Apply some now to dahlias, begonias or gladiolas so the plant can absorb the benefits before you dig them up for winter storage.

So that’s it. Work, work, work.

Decide now what you are going to keep and tend it well.

Decide what is truly doing poorly, and as these plants keep appearing (and they will; it is the evolution of summer to fall), pull them or cut them back and start planting fall plants.

Catch the action

We are beginning the journey of year-round gardening, and so I must recognize some magnificent ornamental displays.

For anyone living in Port Angeles or coming for a visit, go down to City Hall at 321 E. Fifth St. The watering crew through the Parks and Recreation Department has done a bang-up job on the flower displays.

Great job, everyone.


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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