David Robson Extension Educator, Springfield Extension Center, University of Illinois
Yard & Garden
Go ahead, kill off your plants
What to do when the bloom is off the rose or the tomato …
It’s hard to think of gardening after summer’s heat. Yet, we’ll soon be wishing we had some of this July’s temperatures, though maybe not to the extreme that we experienced for two to three weeks.
Gardening in September is more transitional, moving from one season to another, wrapping up some things and starting others.
Finishing up some chores is easy. Starting new tasks can be a little problematic especially if the personal energy level is drained and Red Bull or coffee doesn’t fit into your liquid habits.
Still, there are methods to cut the energy demands.
First, let’s look at finishing some chores.
If the vegetable plants look bedraggled and have stopped producing anything worthwhile to eat, get them out of the garden. There is nothing worse than a row of green beans turning yellow and withering where they’re planted. If your freezer is filled with shredded zucchini and you can’t find anyone to unload the baseball bat-sized squash on, yank them out of the ground and put them on the compost pile.
The same goes with cucumbers if the pantry is filled with jar after jar of pickles.
Fortunately, with the return of cooler temperatures, tomatoes and peppers will go to town and soon you’ll have more than your fill of those.
As we’ve said before, you can legally kill your own plants. There’s nothing wrong with that. If you’re scared what the neighbors will think, do it either when they’re gone or in the dark when they can’t see you, though remember you might have trouble seeing in the dark as well.
The same goes with flowers. If the petunias look the worst for wear, get rid of them. I guarantee the sun will come up in the east tomorrow, and if it doesn’t, we all have worse problems.
The good news is the empty row or spot in the garden doesn’t have to remain vacant.
You can plant lettuce, spinach, chard and turnip greens, radish, cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli for a later harvest, possibly even up to Thanksgiving. For the leafy vegetables, you can mix all the seeds together.
There are cool-season flowers that can replace any you removed. Ornamental kale and cabbage, which are edible but not as tasty as the true vegetables, will provide some interesting color and form until they’re hit by a severe freeze or two.
Pansies and snapdragons can tolerate the cool temperatures a little bit better and may survive until next spring depending on weather.
And while they probably won’t come back next spring, don’t forget the potted mums and asters you can buy. Tuck them here and there, even in the shade, and they’ll provide additional color for the next couple of months.
David Robson is an Extension Educator, Horticulture, at the Springfield Extension Center, University of Illinois Extension, P.O. Box 8199, Springfield, IL 62791. Telephone: 217-782-6515.
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