As summer winds down, start planning for next year's garden
We've got plenty of gardening left before we think the unthinkable — an end to another growing season. While we're basking in the mid-August yard and garden highpoint, it's a valuable time to plan for next year while plantings are still visible and fresh in mind. There's an unspoken optimistic mindset when gardening: This year was good, but next year will always be better. Especially if we plan ahead.
Here is a list of 12 items to consider in preparation for next year's sure-to-be-better yard and garden.
1. Write it down.
I'm positive I'll remember the name of the spinach variety that grew especially tender and tasty, but by next spring I'll be asking my wife, Mary, if she recalls the name. Start a notebook and jot down vegetables, annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs while tags are still in place and memories are fresh.
2. View annual and perennial flowers that you might not have grown before.
It's easier to decide your likes now when you can see the actual plants blooming, rather than relying on a written description next spring. If you don't know a plant's identity, snap a photo, email me and together we'll find its name.
3. Observe flowerbed combinations you'd like to try.
Tour college campuses and municipal plantings, which are usually rich in flower color.
4. Study container plantings as you drive around.
Never have we had such diversity and availability of plants that are suited for pots and planters.
5. Ask the homeowner.
If you notice a home that has a particularly attractive flowerbed or landscape planting, but if you're unsure of a plant's identity, ask the homeowner. Most people who enjoy their plants are flattered that you would ask. Just stay off their lawn until invited.
6. Notice how increasingly popular lilies have become.
Planted from true bulbs, they'll bloom the first year, and increase in beauty for years.
7. Opt for a different kind of lily.
Commercial mass plantings of the lower-growing golden yellow Stella d'Oro daylily have become almost too common. It's refreshing to see increased plantings of the huge-flowered daylily hybrids in all color shades.
8. Canadian roses are great performers.
Winter-hardy shrub roses, many of Canadian origin, continue to outperform less-adapted types like the Knockout and Easy Elegance series, frequently seen at the national chains. The well-adapted Canadian types are best found at the locally owned garden centers. My new personal favorite is the variety Canada Blooms.
9. Autumn Blaze maple continues to have issues.
Iron chlorosis yellowing and branch death continues to be a problem of the much-planted Autumn Blaze maple. Because it's a roll of the dice whether it grows beautifully or not, plant in a spot you won't be disappointed if it fails, and you'll be delighted if it succeeds.
10. Make yourself note about fungicide sprays.
If foliage diseases like tomato leaf blight and gray powdery mildew on perennials or shrubs have been a problem, make a note to begin preventive fungicide sprays next summer, and practice sanitation this fall.
11. Plant your own fruit tree.
When noticing the ripening, mouth-watering fruit on a neighbor's apple tree, decide to plant one of your own this fall or next spring.
12. Be vigilant about weeding.
By now we're all weed-weary, but a single weed allowed to go to seed can populate the soil with enough seed to multiply the problem for decades.
Don Kinzler, a lifelong gardener, worked as an NDSU Extension horticulturist and owned Kinzler's Greenhouse in Fargo. Readers can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
He also blogs at " target="_blank">growingtogether.areavoices.com.