Don’t rest on your gardening laurels; it’s time to plan next year’s garden

By Bonnie Orr
WSU Chelan/Douglas County Master Gardener

Bonnie Orr
Bonnie Orr – WSU Extension Chelan/Douglas County Master Gardener – photo by Don Seabrook, Wenatchee World

Yes, everything is still growing, and the garden is producing bountiful crops. All our work has paid off. But it is not good form to be patting yourself on the back. It is time to assess the landscape. Have you been taking pictures or videos all season to document what is working in the landscape and what may need a bit more attention?

First, consider failing plants. If you have a shrub or plant that is not thriving, the Chelan Douglas Master Gardeners can assist you in determining why. Send close up photos of the entire plant to to help chart your course.

Then assess the wrong plant in the wrong place. My wild tiger lilies have thrived beyond my fondest dreams. They are spectacular, but they are also a menace since the pollen, which is indelible, has ruined many of my clothes when I have walked too close to the blooming plants. So I have been scouting places to replant them far from the walkways.

Some plants take too much time and energy. It is easy to resolve not to plant flowering plants such as Gaillardia, blanket flower, because they have to be deadheaded the entire season to look tidy. I know this is “dahlia country” but when you plant those gnarly tubers you have committed yourself to a regimen that highly resembles taking on a new puppy — and then the tubers have to be stored for winter.

Not all plants earn their keep. I think that an ideal landscape plant has four seasons of interest: blooms, beautiful leaves, radiant fall color and interesting shape, seed pods or bark to glow in winter. Lots of those choice plants are available and might be a replacement for the old workhorse, Burning Bush, Euonymus, that only shines for a few weeks in the fall.

Dry places in the lawn? The first step is to figure out if it is a defect in the spray patterns from the sprinkler. Put out empty tuna cans to measure the distributed water in several places, then adjust the sprinklers. If it is not the irrigation, it is time to check the soil to determine if is compacted so the water does not percolate into the soil. If the soil is too sandy without enough organic material, water passes too rapidly through the soil. If there is more than 1 ½ inches of thatch, the water may not be getting to the grass roots. It is possible to thatch in the fall. If the dry spots are under a tree, abandon the lawn there and this fall plant a ground cover whose roots will not compete with the tree roots. Tree roots will trump grass roots nearly every time.

Finally, consider removing the plants that have outgrown their allotted space and all season long must be whacked back to keep some semblance of order in the garden. This is a consideration in the vegetable garden, as well. I have found that growing melons, cucumbers and gourds on a trellis allows me to curtail their exuberant growth, to trim them back and to check for insect infestations.

Enjoy the fall and anticipate a new growing season.