Feeding the Late Summer Garden

Hydrangea Snow QueenNow that the spring season is over and we are already into August, I wonder “where did the summer go”? With so many things going on in the spring and early summer garden, now is certainly the time to relax a bit and enjoy the fruits of your labors. I am not suggesting you do nothing in your garden, as there is always some maintenance to do, but at this time of year the labor is not so intense. And if you follow a few late summer gardening tips you will be sure to enjoy those fruits well into the fall season. Feeding the late summer garden is a good start.

Rose Knock Out - Mike Darcy

If you have rose bushes, between now and mid-September, it is a good time to give them a final application of  rose fertilizer for the year. I particularly like to use an organic fertilizer that is slow release. A quality flower fertilizer is ideal and applying now will encourage flowering throughout the fall season. I like to cultivate the fertilizer lightly into the soil and then give the plants a thorough watering.

As I visit other gardens this season, I see more and more vegetable gardens being planted. Home vegetable gardens are cropping up in landscapes with limited space and not necessarily in what we think of as a traditional vegetable garden. Just within my immediate neighborhood there are two rather unique vegetable gardens. One is in the space that was previously a lawn and another is in a space that is directly along the road. We would probably not have seen either of these locations used for vegetables a few years ago.

Raised Bed and Street Garden 2up - Mike Darcy
LEFT: A raised bed created at a local garden center. RIGHT: An example of vegetable garden along a roadside.

Another example of a unique vegetable is one that appeared recently at a local garden center. A raised bed vegetable garden was created in a space that had formerly been part of the garden center walkway. It was made by using pavers for the sides and then filled with top soil and then amended with organic soil conditioner and organic fertilizers. This proved to be an ideal demonstration garden to show home gardeners how easy it is to make a raised bed and that one can be built over almost any type of surface, even a driveway.

Joe Harvesting - Mike Darcy
‘Joe’ harvesting cucumbers in his community garden.

For those with limited space, or perhaps limited sunlight, consider a community garden. I am amazed at the prolific community vegetable gardens that are scattered throughout the city. These community gardens have become so popular in Portland that there is almost always a waiting list for those wanting their own plot. I have a friend, ‘Joe’, that was able to get two plots at his local community garden and he has diverse plantings and reaps a prolific harvest. The other huge benefit of a community garden is that it becomes an opportunity to meet other gardeners from your neighborhood and helps as a community building tool. Most gardeners love sharing ideas and it is hard to think of anything better than growing vegetables side by side with someone of like interests. Not only can you share the harvest, but sharing ideas on what you grow and how can be a great way to pick up new ideas for your own plot and to meet a new gardener.

For vegetables that continue to produce into the fall, consider giving them a final application of an organic fertilizer formulated for vegetables.  I always like to lightly work the soil, apply the fertilizer and then water.

Janet's Vegetable Garden - Mike Darcy
Janet’s vegetable garden is example of vegetable garden cut into lawn area.

Late summer can be a stressful time for many container plants and hanging baskets. With the container being a limiting factor with regard to a plants source for fertilizer plus the constant watering required, nutrients in a container garden can easily be depleted. This is a good time to add some all-purpose organic fertilizer as this can give plants a much needed boost.

While this is just August, it is time to be thinking about a fall vegetable garden. As summer crops fade, consider the space as potential for an entirely new crop to grow and harvest in the fall and winter. If the soil has been used for a summer vegetable garden, it would be wise to amend it by adding organic matter with a product such as Black Gold Garden Compost Blend. This same time would also be an ideal opportunity to add in some  fertilizer. Then as you remove your summer vegetable plants, and the soil is prepped, you are ready to plant. As a general rule, it is best not to plant the same crop in the same location year after year. Mix things up and perhaps, where you had tomatoes, plant peas.

Always remember that gardens are meant to be enjoyed. In my own garden, while there are always many tasks that need to be done, I do like to take some time, especially in the morning, and casually walk through it. What a delight it is to see plants in the coolness of the morning, hear the birds chirping and letting my mind relax.

Community Garden - Mike Darcy
Overview of plot at a community garden.

About Mike Darcy

Mike lives and gardens in a suburb of Portland, Oregon where he has resided since 1969. He grew in up Tucson, Arizona where he worked at a small retail nursery during his high school and college years. He received his formal education at the University of Arizona where he was awarded a Bachelor of Science Degree in Horticulture, and though he values his formal education, he values his field-experience more. It is hard to beat the ‘hands on’ experience of actually gardening, visiting gardens, and sharing information with other gardeners. Mike has been involved with gardening communications throughout his adult life. In addition to garden writing, he has done television gardening shows in Portland, and for over 30 years he hosted a Saturday radio talk show in Portland. Now he writes, speaks, gardens and continues to share his love of gardening. To be connected to the gardening industry is a bonus in life for Mike. He has found gardeners to be among the friendliest and most caring, generous people. Consequently, many of his friends he has met through gardening.

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