Love It Or Lift It

by | Aug 19, 2020

Should you harvest everything and finish the gardening season? Cover and protect to get a few more weeks of ripening time? Here is some info to help you make a plan of action for the fall.

Late summer gardens are a thing of beauty, when we can appreciate the months of effort put into them and really soak in the benefits (sometimes eat them too)! By late August, however, gardeners are faced with some choices to make. Do we give our tired plants a boost to keep going? Do we protect those summer veggies to see if they’ll produce just a touch more this season? Do we sacrifice a few blooms to make way for richer soils next spring? Sometimes it can be a challenge to know what to do and when to do it, so here are a few pointers to help you along.

Vegetable Gardens

Do I save my summer veggies or pull them out to plant fall and winter crops? 

We’re forecast to have an amazing fall, but we all know the proof is in the pudding when it comes to weather! Should you have a wealth of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, pumpkins, and squash developing, give them a good feed, water deeply and thoroughly when they need it, protect them from the rain if possible, and try to get as many to maturity as you can. They should all still be producing well into September. As you harvest other summer crops, or should you have some free space in your garden, replant with fall and winter vegetable varieties that will thrive in cool weather. The window to plant fall and winter veg closes by about the first week of September, maybe a little later, so you have until then to determine whether or not to pull any underperforming summer veggies and replace them with the next season’s crops.
Tip: Take a look at your garden’s position and try to anticipate how much light it will get in late fall/winter. Do not plant fall/winter crops in areas that will be in the shade (and the days are already starting to shorten) or exposed to extreme north or east winds.

Not looking to replant cool-season edibles or annuals? Push your summer crops as long as you can then, once you’ve harvested and removed the plants, seed cover crops such as Fall Rye and Rejuvenation Mix. They can be seeded now (until about mid/late September) to grow through fall and winter and be turned over into the soil next spring.

Perennial Gardens

Do I cut back my beautiful blooms to encourage a second flush this fall or just leave them?

Generally speaking, perennials put on an incredible display but for a shorter period of time than annuals. Shearing off the blooms at their peak will essentially just finish the show early, but if you selectively cut back blooms as they finish you can often encourage the plant to send up a few more later in the season. Please keep in mind that the second flush will not be as prolific as the first. The best candidates for ongoing or second flushes include delphiniums, foxgloves, echinacea, leucanthemum and lavender. 

The many varieties of rudbeckia, coreopsis, ‘Rozanne’ geraniums, and the long-blooming Japanese anemones do not really need cleaning to encourage further blooming; they are tidy and bloom over a long period on their own, so leave them be. Do not divide perennials at this time.

Annual Gardens

Some of my annuals are getting tired, should I replace them with fall colour or is it too early?

Summer annuals will perform well through to frost, so if your plants are healthy but just need a boost, give them a light haircut, feed them, and let them keep growing. Summer annuals that have dried up, are looking rough or are otherwise past their prime might as well be replaced. Great late summer candidates are annual rudbeckia, gomphrena, purple fountain grass, dahlias, celosia, and coleus too. They’ll carry on to frost without giving you the traditional ‘fall feels’! If you’re ready to move on from summer though, you can choose to replace with fall mums, pansies and violas (ornamental kale will be available soon), all of which are available now and look particularly nice in container gardens! 

Should we have a long, hot September, the mums may finish early, so yes, you may need to replace them with fresh ones later on. We’ll have plenty of the latter available for planting all throughout September though, so there’s no rush.


    The weather is great now; should I aerate, sand, and overseed my lawn or leave it?

    Hold off a little longer before digging into your lawn. Give it a late summer feed (before a rain if you can) and try to tackle any weed issues while they’re still actively growing, but wait to do the aerating/sanding and overseeding until September. With a little luck, we’ll have some rain showers to help with the germination then too.

    Indoor Gardens

    When should I bring in the tropicals I set on the patio for summer?

    Keep an eye on temperatures, but really, until the nights get down to 15C-12C they’re okay to stay where they are. We’ll post details on caring for your tender plants and tropicals, including citrus, cannas, bananas, and more in mid-September!

    Garden Design

    Ready to delve into some garden redesign before the summer holidays are over? This is not the best time to lift and move trees, shrubs or perennials. Love them where they are for a little longer and plan to do the moving in the cooler days of fall, or ideally during the dormant season.

    A fun and beneficial thing you can do for your garden now is to plan for next year! Walk through your yard and create a log addressing: what really succeeded/struggled, which varieties of veggies were delicious (and which ones just didn’t cut it, no matter how much butter and salt you added), which colour combinations made you happy, which plants attracted the most pollinators, etc. Even if you have a few photos to look back on, the finer details can quickly be forgotten in a few month’s time, so taking notes now will help you immensely when you plan your garden for 2021. 

    Longing for shade? If your garden, or house, is just too darn hot, consider adding some trees to your landscape. Late summer/fall is a fantastic time to plant fruit, shade and ornamental trees, so take a walk through now and do a bit of homework as to the look and size of species you’d like. The demand for fruiting trees and small fruits has been overwhelming this year, so if you would like to add more edibles to your gardens, late summer/early fall is a great time to get them in!