Late summer in the garden

Kathy Henderson

Garden Columnist

Gardeners are never happy; not for long anyway. The weather is too hot or it’s too cold. It is too frequently rainy or there is a drought. The humidity is stifling; not enough breeze. The wind is much too strong and plants bend or break. There are too many cloudy days and disease is rampant or the continuous sun is baking the fruit of the plants.

This has certainly been one of those summers. The early summer rains produced lush growth on our edible and ornamental garden plants. Then it continued and the monsoon rains began to cause real problems. Water is great for the roots of tomatoes, but when it stays on the leaves or splashes soil on the lower leaves, then diseases such as early and late blight, fusarium wilt and any number of leaf spot diseases appear overnight. Squash and cucumber plants develop Powdery and Downy Mildew along with problems with rotting fruit and stems.

A snake gourd resting on a fence in Kathy’s garden. Special photo

The gourd plants look as pathetic as the squash, watermelon and cucumbers but the fruits are doing very well. The snake gourd that does not get hard like most other gourds is fascinating all who see it. Scary! It is edible when very young and smells strange as it grows larger. When mature and quite orange in color the inside is also edible.

I am anxious for the cool days of autumn when we replace our summer vegetables with the cool season crops - kale, cabbage, lettuce, collards, broccoli, and turnip greens. Also add some carrots and radishes for good measure.

As you remove the dead plants from your garden, clean up all leaves and debris before preparing the soil for the fall planting.

In the landscape some perennials have also suffered from too much moisture and too little sunlight for days. Root rot and leaf spot diseases have attacked those perennials that we call “drought tolerant”. Others have enjoyed the extra moisture, especially if the soil provided good drainage in the root zone.

Most of my shrubs and trees have applauded the frequent summer rains. However, the growth on my big leaf hydrangeas has been so rampant that they have produced few blooms. Maybe there will be some late blooms. The oakleaf hydrangeas that have survived the deer produced a massive number of blooms as did the bottlebrush buckeye plants. All in all, the trees and shrubs have fared well this summer. So did our lawns - maybe a little disease in some areas, but most were thriving.

Through all of this, I am watching a bumper crop of muscadines ripening. This is the time to trim back those long vines that make harvesting the grapes so difficult. Trimmings make great goat food.

It is a perfect time to divide daylilies that have finished flowering and iris that have been growing for several years. Find another place in your landscape for them or share them with friends and neighbors. It is a good time to plant hardy perennials now through October. There may be some on sale at your local nursery.

The tomatoes are almost gone, but okra and peppers will continue to produce for a while. Then there is the lull in the vegetable garden until the fall veggies are ready. Get your garden ready for planting! Fall is right around the corner.

Visit Kathy on her Facebook page, Kathy’s Plants for more information on her gardening activities.