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Here are 7 tips to help you with your garden now, as summer is winding down. I follow every one of these practices in my garden.
#1: Watering Tips: Remember to give your plants enough water. The water needs to reach the roots or it will lead to shallow root systems. This will prevent plants from absorbing and storing enough water to support them. For annuals, lawns and perennials, most roots are 4 to 6 inches below the soil surface. For trees they can be down as far as 18 to 24 inches. Running the sprinkler for 15 to 20 minutes is not enough. (Source: Sharon Yiesla, plant knowledge specialist at the Plant Clinic, The Morton Arboretum.)
#2: Watering your plants from above, especially late in the day, encourages deer to stop by for a meal that night. If it’s hot and dry, deer will be thirsty as we are. It also leaves your plants more prone to disease, says Ruth Rogers Clausen, my go to horticulturist. Water your plants at ground level with a soaker hose or a watering wand.
#3: To protect your plants from browsing deer over the winter, consider putting temporary fencing around portions of your garden this fall. You can remove it in the spring when there’s plenty of vegetation growing for the deer to eat. In our garden we had newly planted oakleaf hydrangea shrubs that were decimated by deer their first winter. I was told that they would come back if they didn’t get eaten again the next year. If they get eaten two seasons in a row, they probably won’t have the strength to make a comeback. So last spring we put a fence around them using deer mesh and stakes, and since it’s in the back of the garden we kept it up all season. The shrubs look great now!
#4: Make a mental note (or write it down in your Womanswork Garden Journal) of which perennial plants in your garden need staking. It’s best to put stakes in the ground early in the spring so plants can grow through them. It’s tough when your peonies can’t support themselves once they start to bloom. Staking them in early spring solves that problem.
#5: Did you know you can treat powdery mildew, which afflicts some perennials such as garden phlox, with skim milk? Although phlox and monarda varieties have been developed that are mildew resistant, it’s not a guarantee. One friend let me know that his phlox developed the disease this year for the first time. He treated it with a mixture of 9 parts water and 1 part skim milk, and then sprayed it on the plants. For more information on this and another organic treatment using baking soda, click here.
#6: Fall is a good time to divide perennials. You can improve the vigor and health of some plants by dividing them, and others you may want to divide in order to have more plants. For step-by-step instructions on dividing plants the way I learned it at the NY Botanical Garden, click here.
#7: Be sure your winter blooming bulbs, such as Amaryllis, have been photosynthesizing all summer. I put my bulbs outdoors in the spring after the last frost and they’ve been getting sunshine and rain all season long. As long as the leaves are green, they are storing energy for their next bloom. I’ll bring them indoors before the first frost this fall and put them in a dark, cool place such as the basement to rest for a few months before introducing them to the warmth of the upstairs around December. To read more about this click here. (Last winter I brought my bulbs indoors in the fall but I got very few blooms out of them. All summer they were on my screened in porch and were not getting water or the sun they needed to photosynthesize, according to Ruth Clausen. Ruth assured me that if I do it right this year I should get nice blooms from them this winter.)