I read that the the real test of a garden is whether or not there is something of interest in all seasons. By August the garden may look worn out, overgrown, or just plain dull. What can be done to brighten up the garden now and to prepare for a better garden next year?

Prune back spent flowers. Many plants will reward you by reblooming. Examples include spiderwort, delphiniums, perennial geraniums, Stella d'Oro day lilies, feverfew, gloriosa daisies, gaillardias, lavender, coreopsis, and catmint. Annuals should be blooming profusely by now if you have kept them watered, mulched, and deadheaded. Your marigolds, amni, 10 week phlox, cosmos, zinnias, lisianthus, and African Daisies should be just beautiful! If not there is still time to pinch, mulch, and water!

It is important to go out to the garden now with your pruning shears. Your goal to cut out, clean up, and showcase. Too many of us let plants past their prime simply sit there in the garden. It's never too late in the season to thin out your Gooseneck Loosestrife (Lysimachia) or to replace that efferescent feverfew with a new plant!. Go shopping and plant a new perennial in the cleared out space! Cut back your perennial Salvias. The plants will be healthier. The garden will look neater. There will be less chance of disease due to more space between the plants. (If you had cut back some perennials by a third to a half back in June they would be rewarding you now with delayed blooming, beautifully shaped plants, and a lessened tendency for them to open up in the middle. Make a note to do that next year!)

You should be enjoying the fruit from your tomato plants. Do the lower leaves look rusty Remove the affected leaves with pruners which you wipe with an alcohol swab or dip in a diluted bleach solution after cutting each plant so you don't spread the fungus. Take the time to look the tomato plants over. Make note of those that are susceptible to disease. Next year plant resistant varieties and/or consider growing tomatoes in a new location.

The Japanese beetles have finished eating and mating. Thank goodness! This year many gardeners experienced increased numbers of these devouring beetles. Reducing the damage caused by these insects meant picking them off or washing down large shrubs such as pussy willow and trees such as maple. I killed hundreds (thousands?) of beetles by picking them off plants and dropping them into water with a bit of detergent. If you haven't already pruned away the skeletonized leaves do it now. This not only makes the plants look better but it keeps other diseases from entering the damaged tissue. By the way, spraying when the adult Japanese beetles were active is little better than using mechanical methods . It also destroys beneficial insects such as honeybees and bumble bees.

Keep up your watering and weed control in August. Deep watering promotes root production and helps to better prepare shrubs, perennials and trees for the winter ahead. Keeping out the weeds not only makes the garden look better but keeps the weeds from stealing nutrients that should go to your plants!

Don't just look at your own garden. If you were unable to participate in garden tours in July you can still go down to the Erie Basin Marina and enjoy the plants there. Take along a notebook and make a plant list for your future gardens.

Forever Young Magazine - August 2010