Marianne Ophardt: August gardening 'to-dos'

August 1, 2013 

I admit that I’m a bit tired of having to water my large flower pots and container vegetables almost every night. After a month of hot weather, it has become a tedious chore.

This is the time of year when gardeners like me would like to sit back and enjoy our gardens, but there is always something to do. Here are some of those gardening “to-dos.”

-- One task I put off during hot weather was deadheading my perennial flowers. It should make the garden look more tidy and a bit less ragged.

-- I can’t reach the back of my beds easily with flower shears, so last year I bought a 3-foot long-reach pruner. It allows me to extend my reach to the back of the bed and cut off the spent flowers. The “cut and hold” feature of the pruner lets me snip off the stem and hold onto it for retrieval.

-- Individual cuts for deadheading perennials with lots of stems, such as lavender, is too tiresome of a task for hand shears or a long-reach pruner. I deadhead using a small rechargeable electric hedge trimmer.

-- Whatever annual weeds have escaped past scrutiny, they should now be pulled to prevent them from dropping their seed that will become next year’s weeds. Do not put annual weeds that have already flowered and gone to seed in the compost pile.

-- Speaking of weeds, do you mulch your perennials and landscape beds? I use shredded bark mulch. A 3- to 4-inch layer of an organic mulch such as bark provides good weed control and helps conserve soil moisture. Late summer is a good time to think about renewing your mulch if it has decayed to a depth of less than 3 inches.

-- Last year, I was so proud of myself for buying plastic labels and labeling my perennials. I never could remember what perennial was coming up where in the garden. This spring, I found that the permanent pen that I had used wasn’t permanent on the labels. I was disheartened to find that the labels were blank.

Now I have to label my plants all over again. This time I’m going to try a “Garden Marker” pen that is designed for marking plant labels with ink that is UV resistant to reduce fading. There are more expensive labels that I could buy where you engrave the plant names on an aluminum, or I could print names from a label maker. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Not only is late summer a good time to label your plants, it’s also a good time to assess your garden and see if there are any plants you want to replace or perhaps some empty spaces you need to fill. I have some empty spots thanks to a pesky gopher that killed several plants. The gopher is gone, and now I get the chance to try something different.

-- Marianne C. Ophardt is a horticulturist for Washington State University Benton County Extension.

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