Are You Pleased?

So were you pleased with the gardens this year? It is usually so warm in August that we can be tempted to simply forget about the usual garden tasks of weeding, watering and pruning. You are of course taking a little time each day simply to enjoy the fruits (and vegetables for that matter) of your labor.

Be sure to water deeply. This helps keep annuals in bloom and helps to prepare other plants for the winter ahead. When the roots grow down toward the water the plants become more anchored to the spot where they were planted. This is a great time to plant the seeds of spinach, radishes, lettuces, broccoli and even some perennials. The vegetable seeds germinate rapidly in the warm soil and will be plentiful when the weather turns cool. Direct seeded perennials such as Achillea will also germinate faster, put on some vegetative growth, and will then die sown as the seasons change. Frequently these perennials will flower the next year and cost ever so little money.

Why not buy some autumn flowering crocuses? These plants are such a treat later on in the season when they are so eager to bloom that they may even bloom before you get around to planting them in the earth. Autumn crocuses bloom a bit longer if planted during August and such a show you will have in the garden later! The flowers come in white, purple, and a maroon color. The leaves appear in the garden in spring and then die down in late June. The only problem I have ever had with the autumn crocus is my own fault. Sometimes I forget exactly where they are planted and I harm the corm when cultivating during the summer. Autumn crocus, also called Colchicumis, is still the source of colchicine used in the treatment of gouty arthritis. It has also been used to create plants that have multiple sets of chromosomes (polyploidy).

This is a great time for some plant propagation. The tissues of many plant species are still relatively soft making it easier for cuttings made at this time to develop roots. If you are growing any coleus plants in your garden you can simply make cuttings to take indoors. I have coleus plants that have grown from repeated cuttings over the years. If you are growing coleus in containers you can of course bring them indoors later on in the season and still make cuttings!

You may also wish to make cuttings of tender perennials at this time. Examples are the scented geraniums, begonias, and fuchsia. Choose healthy stems. Cut below at least one node, a growing area. Firm down a sterile moistened rooting medium such as vermiculite. Make a hole in the medium for the cutting with a pencil or chopstick. Dip the cutting in rooting compound which has been sprinkled onto a sheet of paper. I suggest that you moisten the stem before dipping in the compound. Insert the cutting into the medium. Firm the medium around the cutting. You may wish to put a label into the medium as well. I like to insert the cutting container into a ziplock bag which I periodically open to encourage an air exchange. After rooting occurs you can transplant the cutting into potting mix. You can also make cuttings from perennials such as lavender and from confers at this time. Seeds may begin to ripen as August progresses. It's wonderful fun to collect, clean and store seeds. Next spring you can plant them...such fun!

Forever Young Magazine August 2006