Be a Smarty Plants

Recently I asked my friends on Facebook what their word of advice would be for someone new to gardening and just starting out. Many offered some well rooted advice to mulch or water or be open to change. Having a vision, a good foundation of organic soil and to start small were other popular words of well grounded wisdom. One of my Facebook friends suggested that frozen berries in wine was a good pain reliever. Another suggested buying Motrin along with a lot of plants. Those who had thrown in the “trowel” suggested the new gardener give up before their backs and hips, have a drink and hire someone to do it for them. I liked the fact some felt variety was important and that gardening is good therapy.
In the spirit of turnabout is fair play, I asked myself the question. If left with suggesting one thing, I would recommend that a “smarty plants” invests time in their garden in September and October. Along with great deals on plants, the fall climate is perfect for plant establishment. In fall the soil cools down after a hot summer but is still warm and rainfall is more plentiful. Plants put in the ground focus on root establishment instead of top growth. Plants put in the ground in fall are well rooted and take off quicker in spring. This applies to woody landscape plants, trees, perennials, bulbs and even annuals like pansies. Frost tolerant pansies provide color in fall and then overwinter under the snow to outperform spring planted pansies the following spring.

These Pansies are waking up in spring after their winter nap. We're beautiful in the fall and now doing it again!

These Pansies are waking up in spring after their winter nap. We’re beautiful in the fall and now doing it again!

The weather in fall is enjoyable for yard work, even mundane work such as the lawn. Feeding your lawn in fall is important to develop a thick well rooted lawn. Grass seed grows well in the fall for patching or starting a new lawn, September is arguably the best month of the year to start a lawn in Michigan. And when it comes to weeds, well “weed” need to talk. Perennial weeds send their food reserves to the roots in fall just like the trees. If you apply weed killer you’re getting good translocation of the herbicide into the roots instead of just top kill. Also many annual weeds like Henbit germinate in the fall to become rampant and blooming in the spring. Fall applications of weed control keep these weeds from becoming a problem in spring.
If you “plant”-asize about gorgeous flowers in spring, September is the perfect month to plant flowering bulbs. It can be as easy as dig, drop, done. Bulb selections go way beyond tulips with many of the “minor bulbs” like Scilla, Fritillaria and Alliums or Dutch Iris to name a few. Planted in a well drained soil these miracle orbs will pop up and surprise you next spring.

These fall planted Pansies are reblooming in spring with the Pink Tulips that were planted at the same time.

These fall planted Pansies are reblooming in spring with the Pink Tulips that were planted at the same time.

September planted Mums provide brilliant fall color. Mum-Ma-Mia! Hardy Mums and Asters can be displayed in pots for fall color and then if planted in the ground before winter with a light mulch covering should come back next year.
Be a “smarty plants” and make a date with your yard and garden this September.

I’m Only Humid

A gardener’s zest for yard work can wilt in August. We’re only “humid” and I understand. Yet in August some of the best entertaining days in the garden are for us to enjoy. From Rudbeckia to Sedums to Buddleia the landscape continues to entertain. With a little TLC and the willingness to wet our “plants” the landscape can reward our senses like an ornamental grass and its wispy dance in the warm summer breezes.

Echinacea provides long lasting summer color

Echinacea provides long lasting summer color

I love the month of August and it’s the gateway to some of the best gardening months of the year. This is no time to throw in the “trowel” on the yard and garden. Besides, now is the time we are rewarded with the fruits of our labors harvesting the tomatoes and peppers we lovingly planted months ago.
August is a great time to rejuvenate our flowering landscape annuals and give them a kick in the plants! Chopping back stretched, tired or leggy annuals and then feeding with a water soluble fertilizer will give them new life.

Begonias put on a show in the shade of the summer heat

Begonias put on a show in the shade of the summer heat

They’ll kick back into gear and produce a new flush of growth and color well into October. Mums and Asters become available starting in August to supplement your rejuvenated annuals for continuous color. In addition ornamental grasses take center stage in August and September as drought and heat tolerant extroverts in your yard. This is also the month for panicle Hydrangeas like PG, ‘Limelight’ or ‘Little Lamb’ to take center stage in the landscape with their stunning cone shaped blooms. Easy to grow and reliable they put on a show in August and September.

Annabelle Hydrangeas nod in the summer breeze

Annabelle Hydrangeas nod in the summer breeze

August is also a month to think about having that lawn you’ve always wanted. The best time to seed or over seed or establish a new lawn is mid August to October 1. The soil is nice and warm and if you kill unwanted vegetation grass seed will establish nicely as we head into fall. I still believe August 15 to October 1 is the best time of year in Michigan to establish a little “lawn” and order. Remember also that newly hatched grubs do most of their damage to a lawn in August and September, especially if the lawn is thirsty. If you did not apply a grub control in July you still have time this month while the young grubs are feeding near the surface. If you apply now you shouldn’t have to apply next spring.

Establish some "lawn" and order in August

Establish some “lawn” and order in August

Keep vegetable plants like tomatoes well watered so they keep producing and be watching for those miserable tomato hornworms on the plants. Head outside in the evening hours with a bucket of soapy water and pick them off the plants to drown their sorrows in your bucket of soapy water. Plenty of water at the base of your tomatoes and the calcium supplements you added earlier in the season will avoid the unsightly blemishes and “zippering” of the fruit you long to pick.
Unfortunately this also the month to be vigilant in inspecting under decks, patio furniture, mailboxes and other hiding areas for European Paper Wasps. These unwelcome guests pack a wallop of a sting when disturbed and have become much too common in our late summer landscapes. Look for the “paper”-like nests attached to railings or under patio furniture and spray from a distance with a knock down stream of wasp control spray.

The color of blue in these Hostas under the deck add to the cooling effect of shade

The color of blue in these Hostas under the deck add to the cooling effect of shade

Don’t let your enthusiasm wilt in the heat of August. We’re only “humid” and the garden party has just begun. See you in September.
Rick Vuyst

Floriforous

Flowering Annuals this summer have been “floriforous” and beautiful. It’s not a “figleaf” of my imagination. A kaleidoscope of flowering annuals have colored our world this summer responding to weather favorable for their growth. Last week I had the opportunity to tour the Ball Seed Gardens in West Chicago. Back in 1905 George J. Ball launched a one man business which today has blossomed into a world leader in horticulture. I had the opportunity to have lunch with Anna Caroline Ball the third generation leader of the family owned Ball corporation. We then walked the gardens and I thought I would share some of the beauty we saw that day.

Ball Seed Gardens

Ball Seed Gardens

Ball Seed Gardens

Ball Seed Gardens

Ball Seed Gardens

Ball Seed Gardens

Ball Seed Gardens

Ball Seed Gardens

Ball Seed Gardens

Ball Seed Gardens

Ball Seed Gardens

Ball Seed Gardens

What about those Coneflowers

What about those coneflowers in the heat of summer? So many new varieties of coneflower or Echinacea have been added in the past few years. Talk about a reliable long lasting bloomer for the hot month of July into August. Easy to grow in a sunny spot with warm brilliant colors, Echinacea or Coneflower is a great choice to add a splash of color to the summer landscape!

Colorful Coneflowers!

Colorful Coneflowers!

Echinacea adds color to a hot summer landscape

Echinacea adds color to a hot summer landscape

 

More Flower to you

"Dew" you love Roses like I "dew"

“Dew” you love Roses like I “dew”

Prairie Sun Rudbeckia

Prairie Sun Rudbeckia

Flowering Maple or Parlor Maple (Abutilon)

Flowering Maple or Parlor Maple (Abutilon)

 

By late June their are a lot of great blooms to choose from in the landscape! As we head towards early July it all goes “Ka-Bloom”

Tree Swallow

Some tree swallows have taken up residence in a nesting box in my landscape.Such beautiful birds and wonderful acrobats in flight. I see them collecting insects in flight often when I’m out running on the trail. Took a peek (or a “beak”) in the nesting box to look at the nestlings………..

How many do you count? I see four.......

How many do you count? I see four…….

Not tonight Deer

Those who listen to my radio show or watch my television segments have asked me for a list of MY favorite deer resistant plants. I live in an area with a fair amount of deer pressure. I use repellants, however I have found that incorporating deer resistant plants in my landscape helps minimize the browsing. Bambi’s appetite can cost me “deerly” as in “bucks” not to mention the frustration of spring foliage munched just as they were putting on a show. That’s why in my landscape I incorporate plants from my “Not tonight Deer” list of favorites to discourage the deer from using my yard as a buffet.

Rick’s “Not tonight Deer” favorite plants (Note: this is not a complete list of rarely damaged plants but are plants I try to work in throughout my landscape to reduce deer browsing)

  • Alliums
  • Achillea
  • Ornamental Chives
  • Anemone
  • Bergenia
  • Brunnera
  • Carex
  • Cimicifuga
  • Dicentra (Bleeding Heart)
  • Fritillaria
  • Sweet Woodruff
  • Lamium
  • Myosotis
  • Echinacea or Rudbeckia
  • Hellebores
  • Perovskia or Russian Sage
  • Nepeta
  • Narcissus
  • Iris
  • Stachys byzantina Lambs Ears
  • Thyme and Oregano
  • Hakonechloa
  • Heuchera and Tiarella
  • Gomphrena
  • Nicotiana
  • Ornamental Grasses (Calamagrostis to Miscanthus to Pennisetum)
  • Viburnum
  • Spruce
  • Beech
  • Dogwood
  • Lilac
  • Wisteria
  • Hydrangea
  • Deciduous Azaleas
  • Rosa Rugosa