OK, the cicadas are singing, the nights are cooling a bit, the “back to school” specials are beginning. But August is no time to give up on your garden! Some simple tidying can give your gardens some freshening and give you plenty to enjoy as the season turns to cooler temps. Here’s the list:
- Dead leaf reblooming daylilies–“Dead leaf” may not really be a garden term, but as a practice, it’s the best thing since sliced bread for neatening up the garden. The overgrown and old foliage and sticks will usually pull with just a gentle tug–throw the old stuff in the composter and check back in a week when your daylily is beautiful green and starting to bloom again
- Cut back spent hosta flower stalks (to the base!) Some people don’t care for hosta blooms at all, but some of us know that any fragrance and bloom that can come to our gardens is a gift. But once the show is over, cut those bloom stalks back, preferably to the base of the plant. You’ll thank yourself when you do your fall cleanup and you don’t have those woody sharp sticks to stab you!
- Cut back spring bloomers—columbine and bleeding heart for instance. With a coolish summer and lots of rainfall, some of our spring bloomers have hung around longer than usual. But most are starting to turn yellow and flop. Cut them back to the base. The columbine may put out a little foliage but they are ready to take a break until next spring!
- Trim perennial geraniums, catmint and penstemon that have started to flop. In all these cases, you’ll notice some very fresh looking foliage developing at the base of the plant (thus the term “basal foliage.”) Cut the old foliage off to just at this newly developing foliage. In some cases you’ll get more bloom but in any case, you won’t have plants flopping about that look like they need a gurney!
- Cut the seed heads off lilies and iris. Any flowering perennial will try to set seed after blooming earlier in the season. Especially for bulbs and rhizomes, this is wasted energy that the plant could be putting into it’s underground storage. For liliies, cut to just above a leaf node. For iris, cut back to the base of the plant (also see the next item for iris!).
- “Fan” the iris–no, this is not a variant of “friend’ as in FaceBook. By this time in the growing season, most bearded iris foliage is starting to discolor and may have insect damage. Cutting the foliage to about 6 inches, at an angle, creates a sort of “fan” that just looks much neater in the garden!
- Apply one last treatment of rose food and systemic. Roses will want to start hardening off in September, so this is your last chance to provide a nutrients for the plant as well as protection from disease and insects that is provided in many “two-way” or “three-way” rose products. This will give the plant a good position to begin shutting down in about a month.
- Apply one last treatment of pre-emergent weed control. Regardless of whether you use an organic or chemical pre-emergent (e.g. corn gluten or Preen), we will have two or three months where weed seeds will be abundant and we don’t want anything to get a foothold before the frost.
- Cut back discolored peony foliage and dispose in the trash (not your compost heap). Phytophthora blight, which turned the leaves dark and leathery, is a common concern. By disposing of the foliage, you can keep the area relatively free from diseases for the following season.
- Get a cool beverage and sit on your patio! You’ve earned it! You’ve grown a gorgeous garden despite the odds, and now it is time to sit and enjoy it, visit with friends and family, and enjoy the waning weeks of summer.
(Note: If you don’t have time for the above, give us a call at 515-559-3049 and we’ll be happy for you to go right to Number 10! 🙂 )