Ooops! Where did the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer go? Well, the lazy, hazy days may have gone, but the crazy is still with us as we try to complete a myriad of gardening tasks this Labor Day weekend:
- Start the Labor Day weekend by repotting all houseplants that have not been repotted since last year. Some folks like to mix fresh soil with the old soil when repotting. However, I recommend tossing the old soil onto the compost pile since it most likely contains an accumulation of salts from past fertilizer applications.
- Move indoors those houseplants that have spent the summer outdoors. Monitor these plants carefully over the next few months for outbreaks of mealy bugs, aphids, scale insects and spider mites. Populations of these pests often increase rapidly after the plants return to the comfy confines of our homes.
- Take cuttings from some favorite annuals, such as impatiens, coleus, geranium and wax begonia. Root these in a moist mix of peat moss and sand or perlite, or in moistened vermiculite. These annuals not only make good houseplants if given enough light through the winter, but also serve as stock plants from which to start bedding plants for next year's flower beds. Take cuttings from the stock plants early next April.
- Decide now where spring flowering bulbs can be planted to enhance the landscape. Then make a list of bulbs to buy. Next, spade the soil where the bulbs are to be planted and work in some compost or a small amount of 10-10-10 fertilizer.
- Plant evergreens from now until mid-September. Prepare the planting site by working in lots of organic matter in a wide area rather than just mixing it into the backfill soil. Do not apply any fertilizer to soil when planting evergreens, but do keep the soil moist, not wet, until the ground freezes this fall.
- Harvest watermelons when the ground spot on the underside of each melon turns slightly yellow. On most varieties of watermelon, the tendril (emanating from the stem) which is nearest the melon turns brown when the fruit is ripe. There's also the thump test; thump the melon with your knuckles. If the sound is somewhat hollow or metallic, the melon is not ripe. If the sound is dull, the melon is ripe, much like the melon on my shoulders. Be aware that melons do not ripen any further after they are harvested.
- Set up a cold frame in the vegetable garden and plant radishes, green onions, and leafy greens, including lettuce, mustard greens, spinach, arugula and mache. Inside the cold frame, these crops should grow well into winter, especially if the lid on the cold frame is double paned or made with a double layer of clear plastic.
- Plan to grill some freshly harvested vegetables for a Labor Day treat. Chop peppers, onions and summer squash, and toss these with olive oil and chopped herbs, and grill them until tender and slightly caramelized.
- Try pickling excess produce from the garden. Pickling doesn't just mean cucumbers. At one time or another, we've pickled green beans, cabbage, cauliflower, green tomatoes, peppers, onions and water melon rind. Pickling this week end is good; getting pickled is not!
A highlight of natural landscapes at this time of year is goldenrod with its brilliant yellow flowers. Unfortunately, not everyone appreciates goldenrod. Some erroneously attribute hay fever to goldenrod. Others look down on it because it is so widespread, often growing in association with genuine weeds, such as ragweed and wild parsnip.
Fortunately, there are some of us who appreciate this native plant, actually "plants," since there are many species of goldenrod (Solidago). It's a great addition to perennial borders, flowering at a time when most perennials have completed their bloom. Many superb species and varieties can be purchased at garden centers. Yes, some people actually pay for goldenrod, and they find it's worth it.