Stayin’ Alive

If we can make it past August…

Written by Charlie Thigpen


Late summer gardening can be tough. Gardeners don’t want to be outside and plants are just hanging on. However, if you and your garden can endure these difficult times, September and October will bring cooler temperatures and a pretty garden. Summer annuals such as Angelonia, coleus, impatiens, ornamental grasses, and vinca usually don’t peak until the early fall. So hunker down, keep everything alive, and watch your garden thrive when we transition into autumn. 


Water, Water, Water 

As temperatures climb and rainfall is sparse, plants (and people) must stay hydrated. Plants that are water-starved will be stressed and more susceptible to insects and disease. Plants that are in containers in the late summer will have filled out and will begin to get pot-bound, so they require more water than they needed in early to mid- summer. Planters that needed water only once weekly may now need it once or even twice daily. Water early in the morning and thoroughly saturate the soil.


Groom, Cutback, and Deadhead 

Deadheading is a gardening term used to describe removing old, spent flowers. By removing old flowers, plants will stop going into seed production and will promote new blooms.

When you go into your garden, always have a pair of clippers at hand. Remove any dead limbs or leaves from plants. If they’ve turned brown, they will not turn green again. Plants such as daylilies and ornamental grass look so much better when the old leaves are removed. The old bloom stalks that hold daylily flowers should also be cut back to the plant’s base.

Don’t be scared to cut back overgrown or flopping plants. Ornamental grasses and coleus can be cut back hard in August and have plenty of time to rebound in September and October, when they will really put on a show. Coleus and bedding plants should be cut back just above a leaf node. Cut back flowering plants such as begonias, narrow-leaf zinnias, impatiens, and salvias to keep them more compact and full.


Miss the Sun

Do your outdoor chores either in the morning or late in the afternoon while the sun is low and the temperatures are cooler. If you do have to garden in the middle of the day, be sure to wear a hat and loose, breathable clothing, apply plenty of sunscreen, and drink plenty of fluids. Remember that the garden hose and clippers are two of the most important tools this time of year. So this August, get into survival mode and keep your summer plants alive so you can enjoy them well into fall.

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