Sunday, August 25, 2013

Along the garden path...The late summer garden - By Genevieve Coombs

Summer is fading quickly this year, it seems, the hot days of July and August are quickly being replaced by much cooler and more comfortable fall weather. It’s a perfect time to get back in the garden and do a little bit of cleanup before school starts again and time is taken up by sports practices and helping with homework!

Weeding is a never-ending task, to be sure, but pulling weeds now, before they have a chance to drop all those seeds they’ve been happily producing all summer, will greatly reduce the amount of weeding you will have to do next year. It’s best to get the entire root system, if possible, even on the annual weeds. A dandelion will re-grow to its full size from as little as quarter-inch of root! You can add your weeds to the compost pile, but keep in mind that most home composts don’t get hot enough to cook and kill the seeds, so be careful where you use it! You might just be planting a beautiful, healthy crop of weeds with your compost.

Many summer-blooming perennials are starting to slow down their flower production. Beebalm, phlox, and other tall plants can tend to flop over, making the garden and border look messy. A hard cutback of these plants after the flowers have mostly passed will neaten the garden and will also often encourage a flush of new growth and occasionally a brief bloom in late September. There is still plenty of time between now and when the garden will be put to bed for the plants to store energy for next season, don’t worry!

Fluffing the mulch on the beds or top-dressing with another inch or so will help the late summer garden pop with color. The stirring and top-dressing will also help prevent weed seeds from taking root and attempting to hijack all your hard work. Fall mums will be ready in a few weeks to add that quick splash of color, too, so save some room in the border for them!

Ask the Horticulturist: Got a gardening question? Want to see it answered here? Send questions to Many times one gardener’s question leads to information for many gardeners!

Genevieve Coombs is a horticulturist and manager at Roosevelt Trail Garden Center in Windham.

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