Summer Clean-up

Why is the garden looking boooring? How to overcome the dog-days of summer.

It?s that down time of the year, just before everything turns a glorious colour and then flames out to winter gray. This is such a glorious time of the year that you just want to sit in the garden and sniff the air, not look at a mess. Here are some tips to spruce up the garden in time to enjoy a gorgeous Cree Summer (aka Indian summer).

First Step: Edges ? Second Step: Stake ? Third Step: Tidy ? Fourth Step: Grass
What not to do

First Step: Edges

Make every edge clean and sharp. This doesn?t take long: get a garden spade with a straight sharp blade and remove all errant bits of grass from borders and make border edges neat.

Next attack driveways and paths. Pour boiling hot water over weeds and unwanted plants in the driveway and between bricks and it will kill off everything it touches. The alternative: a strong dose of ammonia or vinegar. Then it?s easy to sweep the dead plants away.

Second Step: Stake

Stake the garden: this is the time when everything starts flopping over especially dahlias and grasses. Drive in a bamboo together stake close to the plant. Make sure the stake is dead straight and then tie the plant and stake together with string or rope in a clove-hitch knot and then make a second one lower down so that the plant will sit upright and look very proper.

Third Step: Tidy

Tidy up plants: if you?ve got Japanese maples or other plants that have been fried in a drought: gently strip the leaves off by running your hand along any stricken branch. Dried up leaves will brush off easily. Don?t despair?the plant will recover next year and be just fine. Make sure it goes into the autumn with plenty of water.

Nip off any offending bits of herbaceous plants (those that disappear in the winter).

Sedums that fall apart need to be nipped back and you can stick the pieces you take off into the ground for new plants, they still have time to rebloom.
Veronicastrum, which butterflies love, produces ugly seedheads, cut back to where you can see a new bloom forming.

Fourth Step: Grass

The grass has come through hell this summer what with drought conditions prevailing. Water it deeply and slowly and then reseed. The good seeds will knock out the bad ones; it?s the only way to get a lawn to recuperate. Make sure it?s right for your light conditions. Just loosen the surface a bit and broadcast the seeds. Then scatter compost over the top lightly and water in again.

What not to do

  • Do not whack away at woody plant (trees and shrubs) no matter how tempting. They will put on new growth which will get knocked off by frost and be vulnerable to diseases.
  • Stop fertilizing everything.
  • Don?t start cutting back plants such as peonies and other lush leaved beauties such as hostas. Wait until they go limp and yellow before tidying.