I love the month of August for many reasons—the upcoming Northwest Washington Fair, late-summer perennials full of color in the garden, and the slight change in the air that signals a new season drawing near. This year, as we anticipate the arrival of autumn (perhaps more eagerly than usual after a long, hot season!), we have much to look forward to. As you seek to revive a summer-weary garden, here are a couple of things you can do now.
First, it’s time to start planting your vegetable garden. Yes, you read that right. Rightly so, we often focus on planting vegetable gardens in spring, but autumn can be just as productive in the garden for cool-season crops, and August is the time to plant. Chances are, if your garden turned out like mine this year, your spinach, lettuce, peas and other cool-weather crops wilted, went to seed or simply finished out much too soon in the early-summer heat. If so, now is the time to replant.
The best crops to grow for an autumn harvest are cool-weather lovers. These include lettuce and spinach, “cole” crops such as kale, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, and other favorites like peas, beets and radishes. Depending on what you plant, some of these crops will produce well into autumn and even beyond the first frost, which typically arrives in late October or early November. Talk about extending the gardening season!
Now, as with spring planting, your fall garden will only be as good as your preparation. Reinvigorate your soil before planting by amending it with Black Gold Soil Conditioner, available now at the nursery. This powerful soil amendment provides organic fertilizer, earthworm castings and peat moss to loosen hard soil and provide fresh nutrients to your plants as they grow. Spade this soil amendment into your garden before planting and revive soil that’s depleted from your spring and summer crops.
When it comes time to plant—to be clear, that’s anytime yet this month—one significant difference you’ll find from spring gardening is the lack of availability of vegetable starts. While you’ll find veggie starts at every nursery, farm store and supermarket in spring, there’s not much to be found in late summer. But that’s okay! Summer’s warm garden soil makes for an ideal environment for growing plants from seed, so save the money you’d spend on veggie starts and stop by Vander Giessen’s to pick up some packs of seed to plant.
If you’re like many of the gardeners I’ve talked to, the vegetable garden isn’t the only area looking tired after a long, hot summer. Like so many things, flower pots and hanging baskets are looking worn, too. For the next couple weeks, we’re in the no-man’s land of flowers—you won’t find any summer annuals for sale anymore, but it’s still too early for fall flowers. So, what to do?
Echinacea have been hugely popular for the last several years, and rightly so. Commonly called coneflowers, these perennials come in a myriad of colors and sizes, and if your pots or gardens are looking tired, add some color with one or more of these great plants. ‘Sombrero Salsa Red’ is a compact variety that grows just two feet tall with fiery red blooms that will spice up your summer container and blend well with fall flowers. Gaillardia is another perennial with all-summer color. At just over a foot tall, its shades of red, orange and yellow look stunning in late-summer container plantings.
With just over a month left before autumn arrives, now is the time to begin planting for a bountiful and beautiful season ahead!