Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Garden Talks August 26--Hydrangea Care; Easing Summer Garden into Fall

Hello again,

Customer KR recently wrote us a Question about Pruning Hydrangeas:

"This spring, I purchased two PW Cityline Venice Hydrangeas At Skiliins and I'm pleased to say that in spite of our weird weather this summer, they are doing fabulously, giving us beautiful green leaves and brilliantly colored flowers. Now, the flowers are gradually fading.
Do I cut the flower off after it is totally brown, or do I leave it over the winter? If I am supposed to cut, where on the stem do I cut?"

Our answer:

"I double checked with Tim Bate our nursery manager who reminded me that the Cityline Venice flowers on old wood. So for pruning purposes it is perfectly fine to prune off any faded flowers and the flower stem. Any further LIGHT haircutting is fine but it is best to preserve as much growth as possible so as to keep a good amount of "old wood" next year for best flowering.
Also now is a good time to apply a good feeding of an all natural granular fertilizer like Holly Tone by Espoma if you want to keep the flowers more purple. If you want them to be more reddish then do not use Holly Tone but more of a neutral pH fertilizer like Plant Tone by Espoma or Plant Booster Plus by Organica. Any of these fertilizers are wonderful for the soil and promote great root development."

Through BloominKrazy one of the websites we follow at I found a quick piece called "Five tips for easing your summer garden into fall". This piece is published at (the Baltimore Gardening Examiner). Baltimore is quite south from here but I like the article and I think their points pertain well to our area right now. I am listing excerpts from their five points and then making some comments in italics:

Many home gardens are still producing plenty of vegetables and flowers. However, some plants are beginning to fade as the summer winds down. You don’t have to give up gardening in the fall. In fact, it can be a rather busy time as some evaluate the growing season, grow cool weather vegetables and flowers, plan and plant spring bulbs and repair landscaping.

1. Assess your garden and landscape. Some gardeners keep journals but not everyone remembers to do this. It helps to at least record successes and failures at certain points in the growing season. Take some time to go out into the garden with a notebook or pad of paper. Note the plants you are growing, their location, how they fared, and any special weather or pest conditions that affected their growth. This will help you considerably when you plan your garden the next year. I am a poor journal keeper myself and an even worse photographer. But this advice is awesome and the timing is right. Scrawl out what looks good and where, what looks bad and where. Take a picture or five or ten.

2. Remove any spent or unsightly plants. If your annuals have stopped flowering or your cucumbers no longer produce, pull them up. Dying plants look depressing and you can better use the space for fall flowers or vegetables. Add well-rotted compost to the areas to prepare the soil for any new plantings. Replace old vegetable plants with new young plants like lettuce and broccoli that we have available here at Skillin's. Replace tired looking plants with fresh annuals (we just received a nice shipment of annuals that will flower WELL into the fall). We have gorgeous mums and fall asters. One customer purchased mums today and chose beautiful whites and purples because they do NOT remind her of fall; in her view these mums look pretty "summery". What a great take!

3. Consider fall plants. At this time of year, most garden centers have plenty of chrysanthemums and pansies. Herbs also do well in the fall and can be dried for winter use. Fall is also an excellent season for growing cool weather vegetables like lettuce, radishes, turnips, kale and cabbage. These can replace the worn out hot weather crops like tomatoes or watermelons. We have all these plants just mentioned!

4. Now is the time to plan your spring bulb garden. Start by researching bulbs online or at the library. Browse through catalogs or books to get a feel for what colors and types of bulbs you would like to plant. Think about size, height, and how the bulb would integrate with the rest of your landscape. Be aware of the needs and growing conditions of each type you select. Bulbs are generally planted in October. We are just getting our bulb collection in and the selection will be awesome so come and see. Buy the bulbs in September when the selection is best and plant in October when conditions are best. We can help you with the planning and we have a great Bulb Plannin Class on October 3 here at Skillin's

5. Repair your lawn. The cooler, more rainy fall season is a good time to get grass started. If the grass is compacted, weedy or bare, it should be patched. Remove any brown sod and loosen the soil about six inches deep. Smooth out the soil, tamp it down, and scatter the grass seed. Water it well. Great advice and I HIGHLY recommend Black Beauty Grass Seed by Jonathan Green paired with Grass Seed Accelerator (compressed paper pellets) as a mulch cover. This combination works fantastically for me!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
August 26, 2009

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