Whether you are hoping for a big harvest, a beautiful landscape, or a little stress relief, knowing the when and how of gardening will help you be a success. Use these timely garden tips to eliminate some of the guesswork. For more gardening tips, check out Melinda's gardening books.
Recycle, don't discard, your old garden hose. That leaky hose can be used for other tasks in the landscape. Use it as a topper for chicken wire and hardware cloth fencing and wildlife barriers. Cut the hose the length of the fence top to be covered. Slice lengthwise through one side of the hose section. Slide the hose over the top of the fencing to cover wire ends that can scratch you and rip your clothing.
Gardening Tips for Flowers
Freshen up your flowerbeds with some fall plantings. Mums, pansies and ornamental kale are just a few plants that can create one last splash of color for the season. Get twice the benefit by planting Sub Zero, Second Season or Icicle pansies. These cold hardy pansies add color to the fall garden, survive even cold northern winters, and are back in bloom by early spring.
Extend the longevity of short-lived perennials such as pincushion flower (Scabiosa) and blanket flower (Gaillardia). Cut these long blooming plants back, eliminating late season flowers while stimulating leaf and stem growth. This allows the plant to produce and store energy for increased hardiness and next season's bloom.
Wait until midday to harvest flowers used for drying. Remove leaves and combine in small bundles. Use rubber bands to hold the stems together. As the stems shrink, the rubber bands will contract holding the stems tight. Use a spring-type clothespin to attach drying flowers to a line, nail, or other support.
Water is extremely important this time of year. Water your gardens as needed early in the morning to reduce the risk of disease and water loss due to evaporation. Use a soaker hose or watering wand to get the water to the soil and roots where it is needed.
Gardening Tips for Edibles
Start harvesting pears before they turn yellow and fall to the ground. Pick them when the skin turns from a dark green to a lighter green or yellowish green. The dots on the skin-lenticels will turn from a white to brown. Ripe fruit will easily separate from the stem when gently twisted. Use the same techniques to start harvesting apples.
Dig potatoes when the tops begin to brown and die. Use a shovel or spading fork to dig the tubers growing 4 to 6 inches below the soil surface. Carefully dig into the garden and loosen the soil around the plants. Try not to spear any of your underground harvest. Lift and shake off the soil. Store extra potatoes in a cool dark area where the temperatures stay close to 38 degrees.
Pull onions when the tops have fallen, signaling the plants are finished growing and the onions are ready to be eaten or cured and dried for long-term storage. Harvest onions early in the morning so the bulbs can air-dry in the garden until the afternoon. Grab hold of the leaves near the bulb and pull. Brush off any soil and allow the onions to dry.
Dry onions headed for storage in a warm and dry sheltered location with good air circulation. Set the onions on a screen or other ventilated surface for two to three weeks. Or, place them in bundles and hang them to air dry. After two to three weeks, the onions should be cured and dried. Clip off the dried roots and cut the tops back to 1-1/2 to 2 inches above the bulb. Store firm and blemish-free onions in a cool (32 to 38 degree) dark area with good air circulation.
Trees, Shrubs and Roses
Late summer and fall are excellent times to plant trees. The hot weather will soon pass, and the trees will have the cool temperatures of fall for establishment. Many nurseries bring in fresh plants for the fall season. These and others may have sales on plants this time of the season. Good nurseries and garden centers have religiously watered and properly maintained their planting stock throughout the summer.
Remove suckers that appear at the base of trees and roses. These sprouts arise from the hardy rootstock. If allowed to grow they ruin the appearance of the plant and out grow the desirable plant. Cut the sprouts below the soil surface to discourage re-sprouting.
Rake and destroy spotted and discolored leaves. This will reduce damage caused by the disease this season and next. Make notes regarding problem plants. Plan to make changes in the location or pruning practices to help relieve chronic disease problems.
Lawns and Groundcovers
Late August through mid September is the best time to seed or overseed lawns. The soil is warm, hastening seed germination and the weather is cooler, promoting better growth. Prepare the soil by killing the existing weeds and incorporating several inches of organic matter and a low nitrogen slow release fertilizer into the soil. Level and spread grass seed over the soil surface. Lightly rake to insure good soil-seed contact. Mulch the seeded area to help conserve moisture and water often enough to keep the top few inches of soil moist.
This is also a good time to convert struggling lawn areas into a more suitable planting. Consider shade tolerant groundcovers or moss gardens for heavily shaded areas. Replace hard to mow slopes with hardy shrubs or low maintenance perennials. Or, build a retaining wall for erosion control and easier planting and care. Always use care when working around established trees. Deep cultivation and as little as an inch of soil can injure and even kill some trees.
Tips for Indoor Plants
Start preparing to move your houseplants and tropicals indoors for winter. Inventory the plants that will need to be moved indoors for the winter. You may be surprised to find your collection has grown over the summer. That means you will need more indoor growing space. Create more growing room with a shelf or table top, fluorescent lights and fixture. Locate a vacant shelf, table top or plant stand for growing the plants. Secure a light fixture above the growing surface, so it will hang about 12 inches above the top of the plants. Start preparing now so you will be ready when the weather cools and the plants need to move indoors.
ASK MELINDA - Get immediate answers to your gardening questions! Check out my searchable database of more than 30 years of questions and answers, podcasts and videos.
LANDSCAPE MAKEOVER IDEAS - Check out my landscape makeover photo gallery to get ideas on making over your yard and then post photos of your accomplishments!
MELINDA'S GARDEN MOMENT VIDEOS - In need of more gardening tips that can visually walk you through the process? Watch online streaming video of my nationally-syndicated gardening videos.
PODCASTS - Listen to my gardening podcasts