Time to tend to flower beds
by Ronella Stager, Columnist
Aug 22, 2012 | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Your flower beds need attention about the middle of August. In fact, you are probably wishing those beds were just one bed. It is very discouraging to look at the ragged plants, some annuals dead and weeds trying to take over.

First, pull out and get rid of all the annuals that are not in really good shape. They aren’t going to get better. Next, trim all the edges of your beds. Some of the trimming may need to have a shovel to get the edges clean. To really neaten up your flower beds, pull all the weeds. For every one that is allowed to go to seed this summer, many more will come back in spring to haunt you.

All the weeds and dead annuals can go to the compost pile out back. Now you are ready to cut all the dead flowers. In other words, deadhead all perennials and any annuals left. Things are looking a little better but you aren’t through. Cut off any dead or dying stalks of perennials. It won’t kill them but it will make them look much better. With your garden fork, give the whole bed a once over to aerate the soil. If you really want to have the flower beds looking like new, top them off with some fresh mulch which will help the perennials get through the winter.

I agree that it’s a lot of work to keep your perennial beds looking good but is well worth the effort, both in how they look when you are finished and how well they will do next spring.

If you are one of the few gardeners who doesn’t have a compost heap, now is an excellent time to start one. You will have lots of plants that need trimming in the flower beds and then you have all the leaves this fall. If you have a shredder, lucky you, then you can use lots of small stems and trimmings from ornamental shrubs in your compost. If you run leaves through a shredder, the composted leaves break down much faster into good, rich compost for use in spring. Then there is all the kitchen waste to add to the compost. You can’t use any meat, either cooked or raw, and you can’t use citrus. But most anything else goes including coffee grounds, melon rinds, potato peelings and many other scraps from your kitchen. Just remember to keep turning the compost occasionally and water it well.

Now is the time to stop fertilizing all perennials, especially roses. This prevents new growth about the time they go into dormancy. If some of your perennials are looking a bit under the weather, give them a tablespoon of Epsom Salts and keep watered well. You can just put all the fertilizers away for this year. Don’t worry about the annuals. They aren’t going to look any better no matter what you do.

Starting with some things NOT to do, don’t fertilize any of the landscape plants now. These plants are getting ready for winter already and don’t need any exposed ends.

Once the really cold weather gets here, you can prune some hollies, magnolias and evergreens. The way to remember when to prune them is when you need some greenery in the house for Christmas. It works out just right.

It is really important to cut off the top dead blooms of the tall garden phlox and deadhead roses, veronica and any perennial whose flowers are fading. It is most important with roses if you want them to continue to bloom till fall.

From now till the middle of September, evergreens, both broad leafed and coniferous, should be planted. They are going to need a lot of water so saturate the hole dug for them and the ground around them after they are filled in. It is also a good idea to place some kind of cover on them for the first few weeks so the hot winds of late summer won’t damage them.

About this time of year, you may find some seedlings from hollyhocks, larkspur, columbine, sweet William, and others. If you like the parent plant, these seedlings should be carefully guarded. This is the way I have always stretched my gardening dollars. I love larkspur and columbine and they are especially good for fill-ins through your flower beds. At the end of summer, I always pick the dead sweet Williams and shred them with my fingers all around the parent plant. They come back year after year. I do the same with hollyhocks but the larkspur and columbine seem to know how to reseed themselves without any help from me. Then when spring comes, I can move them all over the flower beds, wherever I need a space filled or need some more color.

There is one plant which you don’t want to reseed itself and that is the tall garden phlox. The seedlings never are true to the original plant and are mostly a pinkish rose. Those you might want somewhere in a back garden. I think they are pretty but nothing like the parent plant.

Please feel free to call me at 270-522-3632 with questions or suggestions. If you want a copy of my book, “Going Through the Garden”, please send a check for $13.50 to Ronella Stagner, 137 Main St., Cadiz, KY 42211.
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