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Give your garden a late summer refresh

Susan Day/Daybreak Imagery

Gardens can start to look tired and overgrown with weeds by August, so take time to do some quick clean up to make sure your yard continues to look its best going into fall.
Susan Day/Daybreak Imagery Gardens can start to look tired and overgrown with weeds by August, so take time to do some quick clean up to make sure your yard continues to look its best going into fall.
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The August garden can get awfully tired-looking. Heat, dry spells, insect and rabbit damage, plant diseases, weeds, and more can all conspire to create a yard that’s more ratty than relaxing.

Fortunately, for not very much money and just a little bit of time, you can do some quick clean up and restoration to put some life and beauty into your landscape.

l Hydrate. Most plants need at least 1 inch of water a week, either from the sky or from your hose. In Iowa, we’re lucky and can do without additional watering for most of the growing season. But this time of year through September, we usually need to do additional watering. Consistently keep plants and lawns well-watered to keep them looking fresh and at their best.

l Hose down or wash outdoor furniture, umbrellas, and ornaments that have gotten dusty or spotted with bird droppings, pollen, tree litter and the like.

l Hose down your desk or porch, washing and scrubbing as needed.

l Tidy up your annuals. Pinch off spent blooms, which makes them look more tidy and encourages more blooms. If they are straggly, cut them back by about half. If they are overall struggling, steel yourself and pull them out altogether. They have achieved what one plant expert has kindly termed “negative ornamental value.”

l With perennials, also deadhead any spent blooms and flower stalks. Trim or pull away any damaged or diseased foliage. If the whole plant has problems, cut it back to just a few inches.

l Visit your local garden center to see what annuals they have left. Use those to replace and brighten your landscape. Cool tip: Hanging baskets don’t have to be hung. You can remove them from the baskets to plant in planters, windowboxes, and large pots. Or plant them directly into flower beds so they spread out and beautify the whole area.

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l Go on a weeding rampage. Get everything time and energy allows. Then top with wood bark or similar mulch to suppress future weeds and to give the whole space a more manicured look.

l Assess your lawn. If it has bare spots, plan on overseeing in mid- to late September, the ideal time to plant grass seed in Iowa. Choose a seed mix made specifically for overseeing.

l If you haven’t fertilized containers, do so. Again, follow package directions exactly. For blooming plants, choose a fertilizer made specifically for flowering plants to encourage more flowering longer.

l In the vegetable garden, keep plants harvested. If any have stopped producing or are struggling, tear them out (assuming they’re annuals).

l Veronica Lorson Fowler is co-publisher of The Iowa Gardener website at theiowagardener.com.

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