With the mad rush of spring clean up, soil enriching and planting, many gardeners are ready to hang up their trowels and spend the summer enjoying all their hard work. Yet, as July races into Autumn, another prime season for planting is fast approaching and by September it’s time to grab those grimy gardening gloves once again. The lesser-known planting season of late summer and autumn is an ideal time to expand your current gardens or break ground on a new bed.
Although I’m often met with disbelief when I tell people that I’m gearing up to garden in September, the truth is that there are many benefits to late season planting. The temperatures are cooler, there is more moisture in the soil and there are often great deals at your local garden center.
While you’re still enjoying your outdoor living spaces in August, take a good look around to see if there are any areas that could be improved or upgraded. Consider what type of garden would best suit your property and fit in with the existing landscape.
What’s your garden style? Do you long for the glorious informality of an English-style cottage garden or would you rather spend your time tending tomatoes and herbs? Yes, you can even prepare a site for vegetables in the fall. That way, you’ll be ready to plant your edibles as soon as the ground is workable next spring. Maybe you want a backyard orchard with an assortment of fruit trees and berry bushes. You could also begin to turn that weedy patch of earth under tall deciduous trees into a lush woodland garden.
Keep in mind that while your garden should reflect your style, it should also fit in with the characteristics of the site. For example, you might wish for a kitchen garden, but if your property is heavily shaded, you’ll just be disappointed as edibles need full sun in order to produce a bounty. Instead, if shade is an issue, stick to shrubs and perennials like hosta, witchhazel, ferns, barrenwort and primula that can deal with the darkness.
Also consider issues like excessive moisture, steep slopes or a septic bed and whether they will affect your garden design. In areas where drainage is an issue, choose moisture loving plants like winterberry, marsh marigolds and irises. If you select plants that do not suit your site, you will waste a lot of time and money trying to keep unhappy plants alive.
If you’re unsure about what type of garden to plant, the style of your home may also play a role in choosing a design. A modern house with strong angular lines will be complimented by a simple garden with clean straight lines, while an informal cottage will shine surrounded by an unruly perennial garden or carefree wildflowers. Keep in mind that there are no firm rules in gardening (besides having fun!), so if you long for a garden that doesn’t quite match the style of your home, go for it.
Also remember that a well-planned garden will create beauty and interest year round, not just in the summer. It is therefore important to consider what your garden will look like during all four seasons. For winter interest, rely on the upright foliage of ornamental grasses, interesting forms of Japanese maples and the wide range of conifers.
Finally, keep your landscape manageable and don’t go overboard creating a garden larger than you can maintain. Your personal sanctuary will quickly become a burden and an eyesore from lack of upkeep if you expand beyond the time and money you can devote to maintenance. If you’re a novice gardener, start small until your confidence and experience grows.
Still not sure what type of garden to plant? Pick up a few gardening books or magazines, preferably ones that feature Maritime or Canadian gardens like Gardens East, Garden Making or Canadian Gardening to find some great ideas and a bit of inspiration.
Niki Jabbour is the author of the award winning book, The Year Round Vegetable Gardener (2012 American Horticultural Society Book Award) and the host of The Weekend Gardener radio show that airs every Sunday from 11 to 1 pm on News 95.7 FM. For more info, please visit www.nikijabbour.com or follow her on twitter at @NikiJabbour.