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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, September 01, 2018 1:00 am

Should be fine to put garden to bed early

Ricky Kemery

Q. Is it OK to put the flower and veggie garden to bed now instead of later in the season? I am tired of all the work it takes to maintain our gardens and landscape.

A. It is fine to call it quits early in the season with some cautions and recommendations. Many folks begin the year with high expectations and energy, which fades as the year – and the work – progresses.

One can clean up the veggie garden and put any green or brown vegetation in the compost heap. If you don't compost, simply place the vegetation on the garden to compost on its own. Add leaves and other debris to the space later on. Avoid any spreading weeds (like thistle or quack grass) or weeds that are seeding. Any heavily diseased plants are better bagged and tossed in the trash.

In the landscape, avoid cutting back perennials until October or later. Cutting back earlier can make the plants produce growth that can be zapped by freeze or frost. Again compost the debris, and any disease and insect-free foliage can be also tossed on the veggie garden area.

Wait until October or later to prune (if needed) deciduous shrubs and trees. Avoid pruning any trees or shrubs that flower in the spring.

There are a few exceptions. Rose-of-Sharon shrubs can be pruned to about 2 feet in height in October. This makes a more compact shrub that produces more flowers – trust me on this one. Panicle hydrangeas can also be pruned in October.

Its sounds to me as if you are becoming overwhelmed maintaining your gardens and landscapes. It may be time to downsize. This year I only grew peppers and tomatoes in old recycling tubs that I placed nearer to the house. I had no trouble with critters this season as the tubs were protected by other containers. I found that the tomatoes and peppers I grew were more than enough for me to consume.

In my other raised beds, I grew flowers. I had forgotten how flowers always have made me smile. This year the real winner flower was a new orange flowered Gomphrena – Gomphrena haageana. This annual reached about 2 feet in height and has flowered all summer. The orange pairs well with purple celosia and coleus.

I seed sunflowers in another raised bed. The sunflowers are 15 feet in height. I seeded zinnias and cosmos in another bed. They began flowering a month ago, and are still going strong.

Every plant is like an old friend. The memories of when I planted them and where I purchased the plants, all bring me joy. I have also added a few garden gnomes given as gifts and a peace sign made out of sheet metal, as well as a wind sculpture. All these things have added to my enjoyment of the garden.

Over the years I planted shrubs and trees to reduce the need for mowing. My advice is a garden is to enjoy, not to overwhelm.

The Plant Medic, written by Ricky Kemery, appears every other Saturday. Kemery retired as the extension educator for horticulture at the Allen County branch of the Purdue Extension Service.