In the Garden:
New England
July, 2008
Regional Report

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Rejuvenate lobelia that's beginning to look frazzled by trimming and fertilizing it and moving it into a slightly shadier location.

Midsummer Catch-Up

I may be jumping the gun a bit, but I'm already looking forward to next year's gardening season. That's not because I'm so organized that I know what new plants I'm going to try and how I'm going to remedy the areas that need some more pizzazz. It's because I want to start over and NOT make the same mistakes I've made this year. I meant to put down a gravel walkway in the vegetable garden. I meant to move some tall phlox so they have more room. I meant to get another pickup load of mulch to spread while I could still reach the soil between plants in a large mixed border.

Fortunately, not all big tasks have to wait until next year. It's not too late to regain control over the weeds, to start a new bed, or to move plants around. And it's the perfect time to rejuvenate annuals for a late-season show.

The Quick-Trick Mulch
To keep weeds under control in the vegetable garden, my favorite remedy is a hay and newspaper combo. A few layers of wet newspaper topped with hay will smother weeds and provide a nutrient bonus at the end of the season when I till it all under.

The weeds in a perennial bed or mixed border are another matter, but it's not too late. Armed with long sleeves and gloves, I head into the jungle of plants and pull the weeds that have thrived around the base of perennials and shrubs. The shapes of the plants reappear, and I can almost hear them sigh for the breathing room. Volunteer lupines and other surprises go into the nursery bed in my vegetable garden until I decide on a new home for them.

Appraise What's Working and What Isn't
Midsummer is a good time to take notice of which plants are disappearing under their neighbor's foliage, and which ones would make more of an impact if they were paired with other plants. When you sit down in your garden, where do your eyes go? Most likely you keep looking at plant combinations that please you, as well as at certain combinations or plants that bother you. Write them down. Make notes so you remember your ideas later or take pictures and write directly on the photos what action you'd like to take.

Also notice which plants are flowering poorly and make a note to divide them. Daylilies, iris, and bee balm require dividing every few years to rejuvenate them. Lamb's ears (Stachys byzantina) and yarrow (Achillea) get flat in the center when they need to be divided. This job is easiest when plants are small in early spring, but you can also wait until fall if you cut back the plants afterwards.

Moving Plants
I like to buy sale plants at the end of the season or in early spring and pop them into one end of the vegetable garden until I decide on the best spot for them. Now that they're in bloom, I can see where those bare-root roses I planted in April will put on the best show. I'll move them soon and pamper them so they get settled before they need to begin hardening off in fall.

While the cooler weather of fall is ideal for moving plants, you can move some in summer if you choose a cloudy day, cut them back, and keep them well watered. The phlox should tolerate the move if I cut them back to 2 feet and divide the clump into smaller sections. I just moved two small hydrangea shrubs and they are doing fine. If I didn't mind sacrificing the aster flowers, I could move them now, too, but I think I'll wait till after flowering.

Potted peonies can be planted all summer, but if you have some to dig up and move, wait until fall, which also is the best time to plant bare-root peonies. Root growth continues as long as the soil is above 40 degrees F, so herbaceous perennials can settle into new locations even late in the fall.

Take Advantage of Annuals' Boundless Energy
Many enthusiastic annuals can still be planted or cut back lightly to encourage more flowers. I recently cut back leggy snapdragons, petunias, salvia, salpiglossis, nemesia, and more. They will be reblooming in no time. Lightly shear lobelia that's beginning to look frazzled, move it into a shadier location, and fertilize it. It will reward you with new leaves and flowers if it hasn't gone past the point of no return.


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