The end of August is when the garden begins to change outfits, preparing for the cooler season ahead with warmer colors and a slower metabolism.
This is when you need to savor the last weeks of the summer season. Don’t just dutifully perform yard chores, decide to enjoy the process as well. Remind yourself that in just a few months when it is raining and cold, you’re gonna miss this.
TASKS TO ENJOY THIS WEEK
Water: Go outside on a hot night and take your time watering your thirsty plants with the hose. Yes, it is more water-efficient to use a soaker hose or drip system, especially in vegetable gardens, but there is something so satisfying about watching water soak into dry soil. You can sometimes see a parched plant perk up right before your very eyes.
August is when the roots of full grown container plants are smashed into containers leaving little room for storing moisture in the potting soil. Pots that were fine at the beginning of summer with a cool drink once every few days might now need a drink twice a day. Indulge those heavy drinkers and admire how they’ve put on weight over the summer.
Harvest: Pluck a very ripe tomato right from the vine and eat it while standing in the garden. Lean over if you don’t want the juice to dribble down your chin. The taste of sun-warmed, home-grown tomatoes has much more flavor than tomatoes that are shipped to the grocery store.
Arrange: Snip a vase of cut flowers from your garden and share the blooming bounty. You don’t even need to grow traditional cut flowers to compose a small bouquet. It is now fashionable to add everything from blackberry vines, grassy seed heads and laurel foliage to any vessel that holds water and call it a “contemporary design.”
Even your most annoying weeds can be used as “structure” in a vase of cut flowers. Place a few stems of horsetail around a cluster of weedy grasses and you’ll have an arrangement that may gladden your heart as you watch the contents slowly die. Display your flower arrangement of volunteer plants outdoors so the neighbors will think you are growing weeds on purpose — just to be trendy when if comes to flower arrangements.
Stake: Use metal rebar stakes to corral and support your huge dahlias, delphiniums, anemones and other tall, late-summer bloomers. The flowers of fall often fall over themselves and past history proves that perennials tipped over onto the lawn can end up as confetti in the mower blades. Plants should be staked before they need it — but staking a wayward bloomer in late summer can mean an autumn encore of color.
Season: Harvest fresh herbs on a summer morning after the dew has dried from the foliage. Place stems of cut mint, basil, oregano and parsley in a glass near the kitchen counter. Using fresh herbs instead of salt and pepper to season foods is another reason to celebrate the summer season.
To flavor sauces and stews, tie the stems of fresh herbs together with a thick thread and let the herbal bouquet simmer in the sauce. The string allows the chef to remove all the herbs just before serving and to skip the dicing, chopping and slicing.
Photograph: Take some pictures of your garden. Late-summer photos tell the visual story of what plants you need to move and which color or vegetable combinations worked well. Garden photos are a great way to add inspiration to a winter indoors spent dreaming and scheming about the plans for your garden next summer.Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of several books. Reach her at binettigarden.com.