Where do you and your garden stand right now?  Let me take a wild guess.

The spring flush of puppy love is gone, obviously.  That was so yesterday.

I’m betting your excitement over a summer romance is also over. These things never last.

In fact, with the first volunteer pumpkins ripening on the compost pile, I’m willing to bet that you’re just riding out the next month and a half until you can pull out the cider and start fantasizing over next year’s love affair.  Am I correct?



I’m starting to dream of crisp apples and crisper mornings. (Photo credit: Kelly Fowler)


Who knew the vegetable garden grew guilt so well?


August calls for bright, motivating colors and lots of them. Like this Moulin Rouge Zinnia mix from Renee’s Seeds.

It’s so tempting to give up in late August.  Even with the rain and cooler than average temperatures we’ve had, there is a certain level of exhaustion that begins to color one’s perspective after the 10th basketful of tomatoes makes its way to the counter in as many days.

We find the shortest possible route to discharge our duties – whether it’s watering the deck planters or feeding the chickens – studiously averting our eyes from jobs we could quickly hit (a few deadheads here, a pulled weed there), and finding reasons for not doing them (no gloves, wrong shoes, faint certainty of ground wasp nest in general vicinity).

We’re tired.  Some of us have been living this life since February and we’ve got the sunburn, rose scars, and hornet bite swellings to prove it.  Real people are on vacation right now, aren’t they?

Normal people.  Sane people.

In short, we don’t so much find ourselves bounding outside each morning, as being bound by duty so to do.  And many of us will not wake from this summer stupor until brisk autumn mornings recharge the batteries and warn of frigid January too close for comfort.


Tidying up vegetables that will keep producing (like this chard) is working smart.


But by then it might be a little too late to tart up the garden for autumn parties – too late to coax a salad out of mesclun neglected in early September.  We’ll wish heartily we’d just girded our loins and plunged in when we had the chance.

So let’s gird them. To have a beautiful, productive garden in autumn is one of life’s better pleasures, and to look like you had it together all season is one of life’s guilty pleasures.

A little work now means a big payback in autumn

To that end, here are a just a few easy jobs to attack this weekend for maximum benefit.  Give yourself a certain amount of time to work on one (preferably in the early morning), and stop when the clock runs out.

  • Get your mums and asters staked. They’re probably on the edge of flopping and a few well-placed stakes now will allow the foliage to recover by the time they bloom in just a couple weeks. Materials: Bundle of stakes, string, pruners.


The ‘Sheffield Pink’ hardy chrysanthemum blooms with the vibrancy of summer…in autumn. But not if it’s lying on the ground.


  • Dead-head your workhorse annuals – particularly zinnia, basils, lantana, cosmos and marigolds who will give their all until the very end. Materials: pruners, trug.
  • Remove dead foliage and flowers from your plants. Japanese beetles have been busy creating lacework. You’d be surprised how much better things look when brown isn’t your garden’s trending color.  Materials: pruners, trug
  • Got tomatoes? Hunt for hornworms so you have tomatoes tomorrow.  Look for large, segmented green poop on the leaves and surrounding earth and move up from there with your eyes.  If you can’t bear to touch their disgusting bodies, get your winter gloves on. Materials: gloves, dish with soapy water.


tomato hornworm

This tomato horn worm is not long for this world thanks to the braconid wasp. Squish the ones that aren’t covered in white cocoons.


  • Groom your patio & deck containers. If you were paying attention a couple months ago when I sent ye forth to seek out tropicals like canna, elephant ear, caladium, curcuma and bananas for luscious August foliage, this is going to be an easy job.  If you are instead nursing a mildewed calibrachoa… well, I told you we were living in the summertime-tropics. Can I help it if Mother Nature wanted to underline my sentence this year? Materials: pruners, trug & a copy of June’s article ‘Making August Exciting.’



Are your tropicals helping you get through the month? As it should be. They might need a bit of trimming of yellowing leaves, but overall, August conditions suit them to a tee.


  • Seedlings are starting to show up in the stores – buy a couple six-packs and you’ll be weeks ahead of the curve. Actually get them into the ground and you’ll be ahead of me. Materials: a wallet with money in it, trowel, watering can.

One last thing.  The garden is more than just tasks and to-dos, harvests and have-tos.  Don’t forget to get out in the evenings and enjoy your outside world – work-free.

It’s why we’re doing all this in the first place. If you’re quick to choose A/C over al fresco, or Netflix over networking with friends on a summer’s evening, you’re cheating yourself.  For all its imperfections, the garden’s got the sofa beat any day of the week.


This article reprinted with the kind permission of The Frederick News Post.