With summer drawing to a close, now is the best time to plan your autumn vegetable and flower gardens! You can set out cool-weather annuals and vegetables, buy bulbs, and plant trees and shrubs. Try these easy ideas for making your late-summer garden the best that it can be.
Tip No. 1: If you planted tomatoes and other vegetables during the past few months, harvest them often for an ongoing supply.
Pick tomatoes, peppers, and tomatillos early in the morning on the day you plan to eat them. Select okra, eggplants, squash, and cucumbers when they are small and tender. Sow turnips, mustard greens, beets, radishes, collards, and spinach now in the Middle and Lower South. If you have extras from your garden, share the bounty with family, neighbors, and friends.
Tip No. 2: Prepare your lawn for the cooler days and nights ahead.
Now is an excellent time to establish fescue, perennial ryegrass, and bluegrass. If you are sowing the seeds for a new lawn, use a lower nitrogen, higher phosphorus fertilizer, such as 18-24-10. If you have an established lawn, go with a higher nitrogen formula like 31-2-4.
Tip No. 3: Refrigerate flower bulbs for a more beautiful display after planting.
Did your tulips and hyacinths come up short last year? They needed more chill time. Purchase bulbs now, and place them in the vegetable bins of your refrigerator for at least six to eight weeks before planting. Plant autumn crocus (Colchicum sp.) bulbs and you will be rewarded with a multitude of pink blooms.
Tip No. 4: Prune and fertilize your everblooming roses now for a big show of fall flowers.
Remove dead stems and shorten healthy canes by about one-third. Feed with rose fertilizer and add clean mulch to conserve moisture and reduce disease. Water well once each week if it doesn't rain. To avoid black spot, powdery mildew, and rust, don't use an overhead sprinkler.
Tip No. 5: Plant autumn perennials for breathtaking fall color.
Plant old-fashioned mums, such as 'Sheffield Pink' and 'Single Apricot Korean' along the front of your flowerbed; their blooms will mound and spill over the edges. Use asters like 'Purple Dome', 'September Ruby', and 'Harrington's Pink', along with Japanese anemones, such as 'Honorine Jobert' (shown here), 'Queen Charlotte', and 'September Charm' for the middle and back of the border.
Pinch off loose or unkempt growth with your fingers. This will help maintain the plants' compact habits and produce more flowers for a great fall show.
Tip No. 6: If you want to grow plants from seeds, plan your fall garden now.
Review mail-order catalogs to select flower and vegetable seeds for autumn planting. Also, dry the flower heads of zinnias, cosmos, marigolds, and Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia rotundifolia), and store the seeds in a cool, dry place. Sow them in the spring for next year's cutting garden.
Tip No. 7: Now is an excellent time to add shrubs to your yard.
Cool weather will allow plants to establish roots and transition into your landscape before next year's growing season. Water well after planting, and mulch with pine straw or chopped leaves. American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana), at left, is a particularly captivating choice. Later in the fall, the leaves will turn yellow; after the foliage has dropped, use the fruit-laden stems for bright autumn arrangements.
Tip No. 8: If you gave your plants a summer vacation outside, get ready to bring them back indoors as the first frost approaches.
Reduce watering, and allow the containers to dry out a bit. Examine plants carefully to remove any hitchhikers (such as lizards and bugs), and then bring them inside. If you are looking for some easy houseplants for areas with low to medium light, there are lots of choices. Chinese evergreens, pothos, dracaenas, arrowhead vines, sansevierias, and philodendrons need minimal light. Plus, all of these carefree plants offer attractive foliage.
Tip No. 9: Reduce the number of mosquitoes around your garden.
Empty all sources of standing water, such as plant saucers, buckets, or old tires. Keep gutters clear so that debris does not cause water to collect. Change the water in birdbaths at least once a week.
Mosquito Dunks are another way to get rid of this bug. When placed in ponds, birdbaths, or other standing water, these donut-shaped objects release a bacteria that kills mosquito larvae. Insect repellents, such as Cutter Skinsations, Off! Skintastic, Cutter Bug Free Backyard, and Cutter or Off! mosquito coils also control these bugs.