A GROWING CONCERN: A time of constant care

WELL, A LITTLE bit of strange weather pattern we have been having this week— the lightning was spectacular.

But as the weather changed around this last week, so, too, has “summer.”

We’re on the back side of the season — it is now late-mid-summer.

This is the time to start making many decisions concerning the garden.

These decisions mostly come from your desires and the need of the plants.

What is it you want from the garden or 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 continuous source of food or flower, you need to decide what areas are to be rotated.

If you want to keep the plants thriving, then the end of summer is a 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 is 30 days away, it is the time to start preparation for many fall plants and crops.

Edible gardens are the prime spot for this concept.

As your beets, rashes, lettuces, broccoli — whatever you are growing — matures, pull them (great for compost) and plant fall crops.

Peas would be great now as they take two weeks or more to germinate and emerge. That would have them growing for the cooling days in September, with plenty of time to produce before first frost.

Fall frost in the foothills

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

Perfect fall crops are lettuce, radishes, onions, beans and any number of various 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 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 starts succumb to disease. Various individual plants start a downward spiral. The pansies have overstretched.

Many plants have been damaged by a host of problems — kids and pets included.

By getting cool-tolerant plants in the ground soon, they’ll have plenty of time to develop in the warmth of summer.

This growth will pay off with spectacular fall blooms.

The range of plants for fall is wide but includes: sweet pea, Dusty Miller, kales, cabbages, carnations, fall sedums, petunias, veronica and don’t forget chrysanthemums.

Pinching and pulling

As we discussed last week, pinching, deadheading, pulling old leaves (stripping) and working the soil is a must during this period of summer.

As you look around the garden, find those beds that look great.

If you want to keep these plants in bloom, stay on top of them.

I cannot emphasize enough the advantage of removing old flower heads.

It is this time of year dead and dying blooms kill the plants because the plant genetically knows fall is coming.

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

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

Fertilize and feed

Nutrients (i.e., fertilizers) are essential to plant growth.

Our soils on the Olympic Peninsula are nutrient-poor.

The coming of fall signals a time of year for fertilizing.

It takes most granular fertilizers two to four weeks, or more, to become available to the plant and the supply now 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 are now lush and in full production — keep the plant food coming.

Many gardeners and all greenhouses know that water soluble fertilizers sent straight through the hose have enormous benefits.

Weekly foliar feeds will give your plants that last boost 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 nutrients needed 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, require a full feeding to produce adequately next year.

Bulb booster fertilizers in the 9-9-6 formulation are superb.

Bone meal is also a great gardening 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 the fall plants.

We are beginning the journey a year round-gardening, but as in all journeys — stay well all!


Andrew May is a freelance writer and 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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