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Late summer perennial gardening tips

By the end of a long and mixed summer many gardeners feel like giving up the ghost. By the end of August/ beginning of September when the weather has thrown everything at the garden – wind, rain, hail, thunder and occasional sunny periods, gardens and plants can look both tired and threadbare. But in spite of the inclement and unseasonal weather, there are still things that gardeners can do to revive the garden and extend the flowering season for a few extra weeks. Here are Ladybrook Nursery’s tips for breathing some life back into your garden.

Top tips

• Now is a good time to look around and identify the blank spots in the garden and see which parts of the garden are lacking bloom. Many of the plants bought in spring were spring or early summer bloomers. So visit your local garden centre and pick some plants that will give your garden bloom in late summer and early autumn. Planting at this time will require some extra care since temperatures may be high and rainfall may be low: well, in the course of a ‘normal’ summer that is. But new plants will still need regular watering so that they establish well.

• Try to keep your garden in good shape. Watering should be your number one concern – though given the amount rain we’ve had this summer, maybe it’s not as high a priority as normal. Never the less it is essential to keep plants watered consistently during the heat of summer. On average, plants need about one inch of water per week and it is best to do that in one go. A good thorough watering once a week helps the plant develop a deep root system and gives the plant a good reservoir of water from which to draw. Avoid frequent surface watering as it never wets the soil thoroughly enough. During really hot weather you may need to water every five days instead of every week, but ultimately the weather and the plant’s environment will dictate water needs.

• Mulch can play an important role in the garden at this time. Mulch helps conserve water, keeps root systems cooler and reduces weed problems. During this time of year, inspect your mulch to see if it is still intact or if it has decayed down to a thin layer. A 2-3 inch layer of mulch is a good amount. Less than that may be insufficient to get the job done. If your mulch layer is depleted, add some more.

• Late summer is not always a good time to apply fertilizers. Plants are often under heat or drought stress, so fertilizer will not help them. In some cases it may even be harmful. Plants that are growing in dry soil may have their roots burned by fertilizer, even when the correct amounts are used. If a plant is dry give it what it needs— water, and save the fertilizer for another time.

• If some of your perennials have turned brown or look tattered, cut them back and then give them some water to encourage new growth. Many perennials respond favourably to this kind of treatment and if one or two don’t, then at least you have removed an eyesore from the garden. The plants that don’t regrow now will probably do so next spring provided the root system is healthy and robust.
Deadheading can also improve the look of the late summer garden. Remove spent flowers to keep the garden tidy. However, you may not want to deadhead everything, especially if you are trying to get plants to naturalise or if you are trying to attract birds.

• Sometimes our late season gardens look bad because the weeds have gained a foothold. Remove these weeds and the garden will begin to look better immediately. Also your perennials will grow better without the competition of the weeds.

Don’t let late summer take its toll on your garden. With a few simple steps, you can keep your garden beautiful and productive throughout the entire season.

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