With the onset of summer, the garden may seem to fade into the background. But there is still a lot of work underground, so this is not the time to take a break.
For starters, your plants still need water. Although their thirst will wane as temperatures drop, perennials, trees, and shrubs in cooler regions actually require additional water in early fall to help them prepare for (and successfully emerge from) dormancy.
In cooler regions, plant tulips for a dash of fall color. They will die during the winter but will bloom again next spring until the summer heat blows them away. In warmer regions, pansies will do just fine as long as winter temperatures don’t rise above 80 degrees.
Add other seasonal blooms to your garden or containers, too. Chrysanthemums, asters, cabbage, and colorful garnishes are good choices.
You can also start planting bulbs. In areas that experience freezing winter, this means hardy areas such as tulips, muscari, daffodils, crocuses, lilies, snowdrops, and snow glory. In the south, consider amaryllis, caladiums, calla lilies, cannas, daffodils, dahlias, elephant ears, tulips, and tuberous begonias.
Those who are gardening in southern parts of the United States, such as southern Texas and Florida, can grow another round of tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant.
There is no need to extract degraded crops if they are still producing. Take as many of them as you can until they die on their own, then remove plant debris.
Growing a cover crop such as alfalfa or rye in vacant vegetable beds will help suppress weeds, control erosion, and add nutrients to the soil. Come spring, just turn the ground over and plant your next garden. With that said, avoid using cover legume crops in beds where you plan to grow legumes such as beans or peas.
Get rid of diseased plants in the trash and start composting a compost pile with healthy plant parts. Create layers of fresh materials like kitchen scraps from fruits and vegetables, grass clippings, weeds that haven’t gone to seed, coffee grounds, cornstarch for packing peanuts, horse manure, and rabbit and bird droppings. Replace with dry things like leaves, twigs, shredded paper, and straw (never include cat litter, dog feces, fat, meat, dairy, or other animal products).
To speed the decomposition process, sprinkle a little nitrogen over each layer and keep the pile slightly moist, turning it over every now and then with a pitchfork. By next summer, you will be able to enrich your soil with “black gold”.
To prepare for spring planting, test the soil pH now and add amendments such as lime, if specific, and compost, which will work deep into the ground during the winter.
Avoid fertilizing everywhere except in the South, where some weeds may benefit from an early fall application of a slow-release product. But respect local fertilizer restrictions to protect the ecosystem and prevent waste (and possibly fines). During the rainy season in the south, for example, nitrogen is likely to be washed through the soil into groundwater; In the north, cooling temperatures prevent the uptake of fertilizers, which can also leach into the groundwater there.
Both scenarios pollute our precious resources and waste money, because unabsorbed fertilizer will not benefit your garden or your plants, anyway.
Southern gardeners should feed citrus trees now, but not during rainy weather. Use a slow-release product to provide long-lasting nutrients and avoid leaching and runoff.
Rejuvenate the lawn, but aerate it first. Seed once a week and water lightly every day until they are 3 inches long.
Transplant and divide spring and early summer perennials and ground covers, but don’t disturb the late-season bloomers until spring.
Autumn is the time to plant trees and shrubs. In cold regions, it is best to wait until the trees in your area have shed their leaves. Water well and put mulch.
Cool season crops, such as beets, radishes, greens, and broccoli can be grown in many temperate climates now.
Finally, do your future self a favor and stay on top of the weeds. Pulling them by the roots before setting seed will dramatically reduce their numbers next year.
You will thank yourself in the spring.
Jessica Damiano writes regular gardening columns for the Associated Press. Her gardening calendar was named a winner in the 2021 International Garden Communicators Awards. Its dirt weekly newsletter won the PCLI Association of Professional Journalists Media Award 2021. Subscribe Here for weekly gardening tips and advice.
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