8/1/14: In the garden this week


I can see I’ll have to divide these Rudbeckias again next spring. This year I must have given hundreds of them to local parks, historical societies, schools, and arboretums, but there’s no subduing this enthusiastic native perennial (R. subtomentosa). It started blooming about three weeks ago and will keep going until frost. I’m not complaining.

Right now when the garden is at its height is a good time to think about next year. What’s doing well and what’s doing poorly? Which plants will need winter pruning? Spring division? Are there bare spots to fill? Do you need screening from neighbors or the street? Those are the kinds of questions I’m thinking about now.

The first thing that comes to my mind is that the little bluestem grass (Schizachyrium scoparium) will have to be divided next spring. I have so much of it that I will be able to donate clumps to local natural areas. That’s the first time I’ve ever been able to give away this slow-growing (but absolutely gorgeous) native grass. Here’s a picture, taken last season, that shows it in mid-July. Notice the great natural color variety:

Little bluestem just stalking out.

And when it begins to bloom it’s even more gorgeous!

Here are some other things, in addition to admiring the garden and planning for next season, to think about this week:

– for the first time this season, we’re in a bit of a dry spell, although forecasts are for thunderstorms tonight and tomorrow. If it doesn’t rain in the next couple of days, water newly installed perennials and woody plants and vegetables. The recommended amount is 1 inch per week during dry spells. Established plants should not need watering.

prune woody plants as needed. From the plants’ point of view, this is a good time to prune: they have mostly finished growing, flowering, and fruiting, so they have energy to put into making scar tissue. So prune back shrubs or trees that have grown too large for their sites. The next pruning window will come after leaf drop in the fall.

– for better bloom next year, remove the flowers of spring-blooming shrubs such as lilacs and mountain laurel after they finish blooming. The exception, of course, is fruit-bearing shrubs such as native dogwoods and viburnums. And if you want to prune back fruiting shrubs or trees, wait until after the fruits have ripened and the birds have eaten them.

monitor the vegetable garden for pests and diseases and take action immediately. In particular, remove plants affected by borers and wilt, and hand-pick to keep pest populations low.

– now that tomato vines are ripening fruit, cut back to 1 inch of water per week. Remember to take rainfall amounts into account when determining how much to water. Water in the morning, and water deeply. Continue to stake and tie tomato plants and to remove suckers.

– Keep picking squash and cucumbers and beans. Remove spent bean plants and replant. Most vegetables taste better young.

perennials should need no care except pinching to promote bushy plants and keep plants short when necessary. Leave seedheads in place–birds will eat the seeds you don’t collect.

lawns do not need watering (I let my lawn go dormant in summer), and they need no fertilizer until early fall, if then. Mow with a mulching mower and leave the clippings on the grass. Remember that the more you water, the more you’ll have to mow.

The Aronia berries and elderberries are ripe. I need to pick them fast, before the birds get them all. Have a great weekend!




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