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Plan now for future garden blooms

Plan now for future garden blooms Plan now for future garden blooms
By Ralph Purkhiser, Purdue University, Master Gardener

Recently, we looked at planting now for fall gardens, both in the vegetable plot and among ornamentals. The waning days of summer are also a good time to plant seeds of biennials and perennials for future flowers.

Biennials are plants that have a two-year life cycle. The first year, a biennial will sprout and grow foliage. The plant will not flower in that premier appearance.

The plant will likely die back in the winter and re-emerge in the spring. During the second season, the plant will flower and set seed.

Most biennials flower in mid-summer and set seed late in the season. Most are self-seeders, dropping those seeds to the ground, where they take root.

Although not a full growing season, that period from germination until killing frost is usually enough to be the first year for the biennial and the resulting plant will flower and produce seed the following year.

Some of our most beloved cottage garden plants are biennials. The re-seeding quality accounts for  the movement of these plants around the garden. Best-loved biennials include hollyhocks, Canterbury bells, forget-me-nots, foxglove, honesty (silver dollar plant), mulleins, stock, sweet Williams, poppies and wallflowers. Many vegetables are actually biennials, including cabbage, carrots, parsley and parsnips.

It is also a good time to plant seeds for perennials.

Growing perennials from seed requires patience, since most take about three years to produce their first flowers. However, like biennials, this growing period until frost is enough to count as a full year and sometimes one may actually get flowers the second growing season and by the third season the plant is fully mature.

Coneflowers and other common prairie flowers are easy perennials to grow from seeds sown in late summer. In a few years, those flowers will multiply and provide plenty of plants you can move to other areas or share with friends.

It is also time to think of seeding grass for lawns.

If you have an abundance of broadleaf weeds and would prefer to have turf grass, it is time to set about killing off the weeds in the old lawn.

Apply a broadleaf herbicide on a day when temperatures are no higher than 80 degrees. Give it a couple of weeks to kill off the old lawn before preparing the soil for seeding. This needs to be done early enough to allow the grass to become established and produce a good root system before the ground freezes.

If your yard is not too weedy but could use a little more grass, you may be able to overseed the existing lawn. Remove any thatch from the lawn and rake in some compost. Spread the seed evenly over the lawn, making passes at right angles to ensure good coverage. Be sure to keep the area well-watered to get your lawn off to a good start.

The green light has been given to feed the birds again in most counties of Southern Indiana. Clean your feeders well with a bleach-water solution before putting them back up. Some experts are recommending cleaning hummingbird feeders each time you refill them.

As evenings start to cool, spending a little time in the gardens watching the birds is a wonderful way to end the day.

Enjoy these fleeting days of summer.