Photo by Guy L. Adams
Gardening by the Yard
By Tom Corbin
A Fairlington Gardener
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"Gardening By the Yard Column."
Late Summer in the Garden
(Posted September 1, 2008)
What a contrast this season is when compared with this time last year! Rather than brown and shriveled plants, we have still-lush grass, leafy trees (albeit some with obvious drought distress from last summer), and glorious color.
August is the time to enjoy the fruits of your earlier work in the garden, and routine maintenance and watering are all that are required to keep the border going into fall. If you have deadheaded regularly and kept plants trimmed and pinched (and watered when needed), they should be rewarding you with heavy blooming. With the arrival of cooler temperatures and shortened days, most flowering plants respond with brighter colors and are usually more prolific.
Get Ready to Shop for Fall
Garden centers are pretty empty now except for shrubs, especially crape myrtles, and a few straggly annuals and perennials.
Soon they will be filled with fall items - "flowering" kale and cabbages, pansies, grasses, mums, grasses and other fall items which can be used to punch up the border.
Of course, spring bulbs will also be available soon. Remember fall is the time to put in spring flowering bulbs.
Alternatives to Mums
In this area, fall has become an extra growing season with plants prospering well into November or longer. Mums are not the only plants one can use in the fall garden.
Consider adding colorful leafed heuchera for fall and winter color. Dark 'Black Currant' and chartreuse 'Key Lime Pie' or 'Lime Rickey' heuchera make a striking color combination which usually last well into winter months.
These heuchera combined with Creeping Jenny, also chartreuse, and some of the newer Sedums, will give a colorful display. (All of these plants do well in container gardens, too.)
Sage is often thought of only for the herb garden, but its silver gray or variegated leaves are striking in the fall/ winter garden. There is also a golden leaf sage. Add some bright pansies to any of these plant combinations and you will wonder why gardeners stick only with chrysanthemums!
Consider Small Grasses
There are so many grasses available, but many of them are too large for Fairlington borders. You might consider some of the smaller and less "robust" ones. "Karl Foerster" is an old standby which resembles wheat and makes an attractive vertical statement in the border.
Some of the low growing sedges are also attractive. Grasses can be left until late winter when they should be sheared to the ground to allow for new growth.
To Do List
Some foliage has been struck by mildew; the most affected plants are perennial phlox, Shasta daisy, peony, and unfortunately some dahlias. Remove and discard all "mildewed" foliage.
Check garden centers for new items that are suited for cooler temperatures and the shorter days of autumn.
When selecting mums, look for healthy plants with moist soil in the containers. Select mum plants that are heavily budded rather than in full bloom.
Fall is a good time to divide daylilies, peonies, and iris.
Continue to deadhead annuals.
Check house plants that have summered on your patio. Look for disease or insect infestation and treat accordingly. You might also do some pruning before bringing them back inside before you turn on the furnace.
If your container gardens are still going strong, continue weekly fertilization with a liquid fertilizer. If they have "given up the ghost";, replace them with readily available items - grasses, small boxwoods, "sweet box", pansies, ornamental peppers, etc. - for fall interest.
Order spring bulbs. Remember the smaller the bulb the earlier the planting! Plant daffodils in mid to late October and tulips in late October into November.
- Stop fertilizing roses.
- Remove any perennial weeds - such as 'poke' weed, Virginia creeper, and wild grape vine - which are spread by bird droppings. Also remove and seedling trees that have sprung up in the border - especially maples, lindens, and mulberry.
In the interest of protecting our environment, there are many thing the small-time gardener can do to limit our impact on the planet.
|Plant native species. The American Horticulture Society (located near Mt. Vernon), Blandy Farm (the VA arboretum near Winchester, VA), Green Springs Farm (located off Little River Turnpike), and local farmers' markets offer native species which will grow in our area. |
Use natural products. Limit the use of chemical sprays and fertilizers in the garden.
Consider drought tolerant plants. Once established many plants, including native species, are drought tolerant. Discover them through a little garden research.
Promote Natural Growth Patterns. Encourage the natural growth form of plants and shrubs. Sheared plants are stressed out and use more water than those left to grow in their natural pattern.