As fall approaches, gardeners might have noticed their flower beds have started to wilt, wither and brown.
It can fool a green thumb into thinking that after pounding rains in July, and the dry August heat that followed, their work in the garden is done for another season.
But according to the Calgary Horticultural Society's Kath Smyth, the season isn't over yet.
Garden centres are full of hydrangeas and junipers that are worth planting now, she said Thursday on the Calgary Eyeopener.
Smyth said a few simple tricks can help extend spring and summer plant life into September and even October.
And if gardeners put those tricks into practice now, it can set them up for a fruitful spring in 2021.
Deadheading and watering
Deadheading flowers and weeding are essential to encourage growth, Smyth said.
"You've got to keep picking the flower heads," she said. "And the more you pick them, the more they will continue to flower."
And even if your plants have already begun to wilt, she recommends soaking flower beds at least once a week with a hose kept low, to avoid watering the air instead of the dirt.
"It's really, really hard on the plant material when it's this dry," Smyth said. "Plus, with all the pounding rain we had, the soil got all hard … so it's cracking."
Keeping the soil damp is crucial, she said, because neglecting to water it now could mean more trouble in the spring.
"Please go back and water, because then next year we're going to have the same issue that we had this past spring with, 'Why aren't my trees leafing out properly? Why aren't my shrubs coming? Where are my perennials?'"
Loosen the soil
A soaker-hose is ideal for convenient and thorough watering because it is porous, can be coiled through garden beds like a snake, and weeps through the soil, Smyth said.
This means gardeners can leave it running for 35 to 45 minutes without having to babysit or move it.
Loosening dirt with a garden hoe will keep it from becoming waterlogged, and lightly mulching the soil can help keep plants healthy.
However, Smyth advised gardeners to be sure to water their wood-based mulch, because it can be hydrophobic.
"It will repel the water," she said.
August might have been hot and dry, but it's not too soon to safeguard against the dreaded frosts that can wipe out plants overnight.
Frost cloths can be draped over plants to protect them, Smyth said, and buying them ahead of the colder months is a good way to ensure gardeners aren't caught by surprise.
The cloths can keep plants insulated when temperatures drop below freezing — and still allow sunlight, water and fertilizer to get through.
"It looks like you're putting your laundry out," Smyth said of the cloths, "but it really helps."
With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.