It’s hard to believe that our summer is now behind us … sad, but true. Hopefully, we’ll be blessed with a nice long fall. Keep those fingers crossed!
Looking around, we can see some of the “autumn bloomers” coming into their own. These include asters, mums, Japanese anemones and more. Roses don’t like heat, so they more or less sulked through those long weeks of 90-plus days. Now they’re back to blooming and doing a great job of it.
Even some annuals that got a late start are finally flowering. I didn’t get my cleome plants going as early as I should have, but they were definitely worth the wait. If you’ve never grown those, be sure to give them a try next spring. Their nickname is spider flower, which comes from the way the developing seed pods hang down in clusters, something like spider legs.
Don’t panic if your much loved bleeding heart plants have turned yellow. This is normal for them and it doesn’t mean they’re dead. Just pull off those stems and toss them into the compost pile. The plants will be back next spring to brighten your flowerbed.
This is a great time to give your lawn some attention. Now that it’s cooled down, you can reseed any bare patches. Also, be sure to give your lawn a nice dose of fertilizer. This is the most important one of the year as it readies your grass for its fall dormancy and prepares it for next spring’s “wake up” call. Mow lower again now that it has cooled off.
No doubt you are seeing crane flies around your yard. Do not panic! These are nothing to get excited about. Contrary to old wives’ tales, these are not “mosquito eaters” or any other nickname. They don’t actually eat anything as their only purpose is to fly around a while and then lay eggs, which will produce some tiny grubs that will turn into next year’s crane flies.
Keep an eye out for powdery mildew. Two of its favorite targets are perennial phlox and bee balm. Spray any affected plants and be sure they’re getting enough water and plenty of air circulation. Remember, this problem is easier to prevent than it is to cure.
Now is a good time to plant some of those gorgeous pansies. These are considered to be half-hardy perennials in our area, meaning they often live over winter, but not always. They are definitely worth a try.
Another plant that we consider as an annual in this area is the petunia. These are grown as perennials in zones to the south of us and don’t need to be replanted each spring. I’ve had some petunias and snapdragons reseed themselves here. Unfortunately, most of our bedding plants are hybrids and won’t reseed. Even if they do, their offspring won’t look like the parent plant. It’s kind of like crossing a horse and a donkey to get a mule. Mules don’t have babies and even if they did, the offspring wouldn’t look like a mule.
Stores already have fall bulbs in stock. Be sure to buy them right away, before they get picked over.
If you haven’t already done so, go ahead and cut the tops off your tomato plants. This will signal the plant to ripen any green fruit. Pick off any tiny tomatoes as these won’t have time to ripen before getting hit by frost. Did I say “frost?” Sorry.
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Elaine Cerny has gardened most of her life, starting in 4-H. She has belonged to garden clubs in three states and is currently serving as secretary for the River City Gardeners Club in Post Falls. Her column appears in The Press every other Sunday from early March until late October.