Many of us who live in hot weather areas end up with gardens that look completely neglected towards the end of August. This is especially true if you think the best way of dealing with the summer heat is to avoid it by staying indoors as much as possible. I only come out at night to water the plants before darting back towards cooler climes. If this is you as well or your yard has just been feeling the heat, here’s a quick primer for getting it back into shape.
Throw Away Toasted Plants
Assuming that you or your lawn guy at least mowed the grass, the first step is to remove all of the unsightly horrors from your yard. (This does include that random, migratory fern that you thought belonged to your neighbor.) Nothing says “neglect” louder than a yard full of dead plants. This rule even applies to just about anything that’s about to give up the ghost. Of course, the main exceptions are expensive or beloved specimens. But if they’re scorching in their current spot, move them to a cooler, shadier place immediately!
Meanwhile, if the vegetables that you planted in the spring are still only a few inches tall, you might as well give it up at this point. Either eat them as micro-greens on a sandwich or chuck them out. The only exceptions are cool weather specimens that might actually start to look alive when the temperature drops. Or those that won’t bear fruit if it gets too hot. But keep in mind that it takes some plants a while to hit their stride.
Just remember when you’re tossing plants out that diseased or bug-infected specimens go in the trash. Everything else can and should be composted. You should also empty all salvageable potting soil into either a heavy duty plastic bag or the compost heap. Then you should store the extra containers out of sight. On the same note, you’ll want throw out containers and trellises that are broken beyond all repair and recycle them if possible.
Shape It Up
Your second main task to refurbishing your neglected garden is to shape it up by cleaning up any overrun beds. Hand weeding is usually fine. But sometimes more drastic measures are needed. For instance, my yard has thorny, vine-like weeds that attach themselves to nearly everything. These require gloves and a small hatchet to eradicate. I also have these huge thistles that have to be carted off with a wheelbarrow. They even require post-hacking showers to keep me from breaking into a nasty rash. No matter what kind of weeds you happen to be dealing with, they shouldn’t be thrown in the compost bin, otherwise they’ll spread. So be careful!
That also goes for dealing with sharp objects. After all, you need to prune anything that’s looking overgrown, damaged, or bug-infested. But be careful if the plants you’re dealing with are the kind that bear fruits on new branches. In those cases, you want to leave some branches standing so that you can have key limes or what-have-you. (Yes, I speak from experience). Of course, there are always the classic cases involving flowers that have gone berserk and need a good beheading. This year’s culprits include the overzealous zinnias as well as the wild and crazy anise hyssops.
Finally, check over the neglected area for any additional problems that weren’t tackled earlier. You’ll need to treat any ailing plants with appropriate pesticides or fertilizers as needed to get them looking their best if the cooler weather isn’t helping.
If you have plants that need to be moved to larger containers, the fall is a great time to do so. Containers and leftover perennials often go on sale at this time of year. Likewise, if you have huge gaps in your garden, you can fill them up using sales plants for quick color. (I’ve gotten some great deals on the sales racks). Of course, the trick is to select varieties that can withstand a touch of cold weather if your area is lucky enough to be due for such things any time soon.
Cleaning and storing garden tools is another good task to accomplish before fall. If you’re feeling particularly energetic, why not organize all your garden supplies so you can find them easily next spring? You might also want to return any extra plastic containers that are lurking about your yard to a nearby garden center. Most of them will recycle these so that you don’t have to and they’re not lying around cluttering up your newly refurbished yard. As always, good luck and happy gardening!