We all know spring is the time to clean, but the end of summer means it's time to start another type of garden cleanup.
Even though things are still growing, the clean up should begin anyway. The first thing I like to do to start the early fall clean up is tidy up the edges of the garden borders.
I like trenched edges. It almost seems as though I'm drawing a line for the weeds when I dig a trench all along a garden bed. I'm telling them, "This is your space and this is mine, don't cross this line."
By the end of summer, that line has started to blur. Weeds, especially ground ivy, purslane and chickweed take my dare and start to cross the line.
With a sharp spade, go over the trench, being careful not to cut into the lawn any further and not to make the trench any deeper than four inches. Make a clean cut straight down on the lawn side and angle the spade upward on the garden side. It's amazing how a clean edge can refresh the look of a garden bed.
The end of summer also is time to dig and divide. By now you probably know which plants are ready. If they grow from a center crown, such as Lady's Mantle, for example, you can dig and divide the crown into sections and have more plants to expand your garden or share with friends. If they grow from rhizomes or tubers, such as bearded iris or daylilies, it's time to dig them up, inspect them for soft spots that indicate disease, trim them up a bit, separate and replant.
Refreshing these plants every so often keeps them vigorous and ensures healthy blooms next summer.
As the cooler weather starts creeping in, it's time to fertilize the lawn. It seems strange that at the same time we stop feeding most other plants, we start feeding the lawn, but grass varieties we grow in northeast Ohio are cool weather plants that thrive just when the rest of the garden winds down.
After the heat of last month sent most lawns into dormancy, grass is now beginning to wake up. If you can only fertilize once a season, late summer or early fall is the time to do it.
Deadhead all those faded perennials. By now the fall blooming sedums and hardy mums are starting to produce flower buds, but most other summer perennials are finished. The lilac and beebalm (monarda) is likely infested with powdery mildew anyway. Don't worry about the lilac; leave it alone as trimming it will cut away the growth that produces next spring's flowers and the mildew won't hurt the plant. But go ahead and cut the beebalm down to the ground. If your butterfly bush has finished its season, cut it back as well. It will return from the ground next spring.
Houseplants you took outside last spring probably need repotting if they've had good growth over the summer. Remember that they are getting ready to go into their slow growth period, especially when they are moved indoors to lower light conditions.
If they need it, go ahead and repot, but be sure not to put them in containers that are more than one-inch larger in diameter than where they currently live. We don't want to encourage rapid growth by giving them too much room.
Start to acclimate houseplants to the indoors by bringing them in at night and putting them back out in the morning for a couple weeks.