Planting additional annuals can provide color during the late summer months

By Bev Johnson

Master Gardener

Were your iris beautiful this spring? No? You probably have huge clumps of fans but few or small blooms. If this is the case, friend, you have some work to do. First, if you do have blooms, no mater how pitiful, cut the stalks down as soon as they are done blooming. 

If you only have the old-fashioned Iris, chuck them and get some of the hybrids. If yours are hybrids, two weeks after the last of the blooms, dig the plants up. Knock all the dirt off the rhizomes and pull them apart. Keep only the rhizomes that have a healthy fan of leaves on them. Discard any that are mushy or have no leaves. They are quite easy to break apart. Now you are ready to replant. 

Put a bit of bone meal in the hole and mix just a few tablespoons of compost with it. Now make a mound. Arrange your rhizomes in a circle with the narrow part pointing in. The rhizomes like to sun bathe (be exposed). The roots on the bottom must be covered. Spread them out then cover with soil and water them in. You will probably need to do this all over in about 5 years to keep them looking their best. 

It’s no too late to plant annuals. Most of them have been marked down by now so splurge and buy gobs. Annuals add color to the perennial garden as most perennials only bloom from a week to 10 days. Annuals will continue to bloom all summer if you keep them deadheaded. If, in the fall, you decide you really liked one of them, let it go to seed. They may or may not come back and they may not look the same if they are a hybrid but it’s sure fun to experiment and those seeds cost you nothing. Either collect them or let them fall where they may. 

You should be cutting your grass about 3 inches high this time of the year. This height keeps the roots cooler, shades out some of the weed seeds, and keeps the grass green longer between showers. Grass grows slower between 3 and 4 inches than between 2 and 3 inches. Looks nicer too. 

Every growing plant, including trees, need at least an inch of water a week, more if it gets hot, to do well. Overhead watering should be done early in the day so the leaves dry before evening. Wet leaves lead to fungal diseases on trees, ornamentals, shrubs, flowers, garden plants and even grasses. 

Wait to fertilize until at least September or later if it is still hot. You take the risk of “burning” your grass. Don’t use herbicides either as they are much more apt to drift in hot weather. Sprays can drift as far as quarter mile if applied incorrectly. Dig up the thugs, thistles, creeping bellflower, violets and dandelions. The exercise it good for you and it gets rid of them permanently. Or, if you must spray them, start on Labor Day then again in mid-October to properly murder them. 

Creeping Charlie should get a good dose of herbicide every week until freezing. This will, at least, slow him down in the spring. 

It’s a good time to see if your shade and sun spots have changed. Shade plants exposed to sun will just say “rain on it” and go belly up. Sun lovers will be pitiful examples of themselves. 

Enjoy the summer even though there are constant chores to be done to keep your estate looking its best. It’s very short here in the wilds of Minnesota.