Ideas for a Late-Summer Second Wind

Article written by Saturday6' blogger Rochelle Greayer from Pith + Vigor

It is easy for a gardener to get discouraged after a tough summer. In my neck of the woods, excessive drought and heat are the reasons why we feel a little hopeless, but it could have been pests, weeds, blight and other stresses causing our collective late-summer garden despondency. I am, however, reminded (by a flip through my Instagram from a year ago) that there is a lot of garden beauty yet to come, and I find it is giving me a strong second wind. The dahlias are just in bud now and will be in full bloom throughout September (and maybe even later), and there are hydrangeas, grasses, fall veggies and other late bloomers still on the way. This is not the time to throw in the towel, but rather an opportunity for a strong finish and a final hurrah. Here are a few ideas for refreshing and renewing for a spectacular late season in the garden.

1.    Plant some quick growing vegetables. You can start with a clean slate and plant some cool season crops like spinach, radishes and lettuce. These can be picked in less than 60 days.

2.    Fill in holes with new perennials - There is no better time than when you can see the issue than to fix the issue. Plus there are often lots of bargains to be had at the nursery on plants that have finished blooming for the year. Fall is actually a better time to plant perennials than spring because they have a dormant period to establish roots when water is generally plentiful.

3.    Move and divide plants - The fall is also a great time to split existing plants and move things around. Plants are using less water at this time of year and so long as they are at least a few weeks past their bloom time it is a great time to transplant. I generally follow up a transplant with a fertilizer to promote root growth.

4.    Spruce up - The stress of this year is showing. Take the time to thin, remove dead or dying branches, and cut back and freshen up the plants that you have. This isn't a normal cleanup time, but if you look around ' particularly after the heat of the summer passes ' you will see many places where a little bit of pruning will go a long way towards making the garden inviting for the fall. Also, keep annuals and perennials deadheaded to help them extend their bloom as late as possible.

5.    Fill in with fall annuals - Mums and cabbages are the expected and standard fare for the fall season, but splash out and try something different. Pansies, asters, verbena, senecio, alyssum and others will pair nicely with changing leaves and grasses with beautiful blooming seed heads.

6.    Plant bulbs - When I put in mums and fall annuals, I also try to install spring flowering bulbs (or if I miss that first opportunity then I do it when I pull things out). Put them in the bottom of the hole and then put the annuals on top. This way you get double use from your shoveling efforts.

7.    Plant new grass seed - I've been waiting all season for an opportunity to make a couple of new grassy paths. The fall is my opportunity to level out the ground, make sure the path is wide enough for the mower, and spread the seed at a time when warm days and cool nights will ensure seed germination is high. Also, I am taking the opportunity to naturalize some bulbs in certain areas of the lawn. A bulb auger (a large bulb-sized drill bit that you can attach to a regular drill) helps to dig the holes through established lawn. Once you have planted the bulbs, sprinkle a little grass seed on top and next spring will be especially glorious.

8.    And lastly - Plant trees and woody shrubs. Fall is the best season to plant all kinds of trees, but especially fruit-bearing varieties. Make sure you stake them so that winter doesn't knock them over.

In general, think of fall as an even better spring. Most people think that spring is the time to 'get planting,' but, in fact, the fall is better for plants. The soil is warm, water is more plentiful and there is no impending heat to contend with.