Groff's Plant Farm Images

Taking Back Control

Published: Thu Aug 31st 2017

This last week I have been on a mission. Summer was full of activities with the kids, and I let part of my garden get a but…ahem…wild. A week ago as I was walking through the beautiful blooming helenium and cardinal flowers, I was aghast to see a ragweed that towered over my head. Where did that come from?! (Pictured left)

This summer’s cooler temperatures and plentiful rainfall encouraged weeds to grow like crazy and now is the time to get them under control before they set seeds and multiply your problems next year.

Break it down by sections and set goals. If you are like me you see a large area that needs tackling and it is overwhelming. Don’t beat yourself up doing it all at once. I encourage you to do a bit every day or set a time goal. Work on it for a hour after work or when the kids get home from school and let them run some energy off. Better yet, get them to help!

Once I had some of the weeds pulled, I found places where I had some room to add more fall-blooming plants. Ground covered by desired plants can’t grow weeds.

Ornamental grass is beautiful this time of year. ‘Northwind’ Panicum is one of my favorite taller grasses and ‘Hameln’ pennisetum is a great lower-growing grass for the front of the border. The little bluestem ‘Standing Ovation’ has really impressed me the last few years with its blue-red color and upright habit. Asters are just starting to bloom now as are sedums, perennial mums and anemones. Coral bells, plumbago, toad lilies and carex will add some color to your shady spots.

If you are wanting to add some shrubs, the autumn-berrying shrubs like purple beauty berry, viburnums, and winterberry holly are all starting to show some color. Shrubs with attractive fall leaf color include fothergilla (bottle brush), itea, and oakleaf hydrangea.

Fall is a preferred time to plant perennials and shrubs as the soil is still warm and roots establish quickly before the plant goes into winter dormany. You will also start to see those familiar bulb boxes in stores. September is prime time for planting daffodils, tulips, crocus and allium for spring.

People always ask if you should do garden cleanup in the fall or wait until spring. Leaving seed head on your perennials will feed the birds, but it will also spread a bunch of seeds around your garden. Goldfinches have been happily feeding on my coneflowers the last few days, but I am also forever pulling volunteers. Find a happy medium and cut things back that you don’t want everywhere, but leave some plants standing to feed wildlife and for habitat for beneficial insects to overwinter.

We still have a good two months left in the gardening season. A little effort now will pay big dividends in the spring