After six weeks of lawn work, we come to a weekend of "cafeteria gardening": Now you may take your pick of garden chores. This is your opportunity to catch up on chores that have been neglected and to anticipate problems. With barely an hour's work, you can dispatch these problems while also laying the cornerstone for some enjoyable fall gardening:
If you have not seeded your lawn because everything seems to be doing well, consider treating your sunny lawn this weekend with Gallery to stop fall and spring weeds from sprouting. Not only will Gallery stop betony, chickweed and henbit seeds from germinating on your lawn the last week of September, but you will also gain control over clover, dandelion, ground ivy, oxalis and an army of weed seeds sprouting next spring.
With this degree of weed control never available up to now, you should expect to pay a healthy price for the Gallery, but its performance makes every penny well spent.
While some homeowners reported success at applying Gallery with the hose-end sprayer in the spring, we strongly recommend using the sprinkling can.
Add 12 gallons of water to a clean trash can, then 3 1/2 heaping teaspoons of Gallery stirred into the solution. Wearing rubber gloves, dip a two-gallon sprinkling can into the solution and apply all 12 gallons to a 1,000-square-foot area. Applied this weekend, Gallery will be washed into the top inch of soil over the next three weeks to stop an ocean of weeds from growing.
If you are picking fruit from ever-bearing strawberry plants, remember to spade all plants from the soil when the last berries are harvested. Don't save the plants with the idea of using them to grow "runners" next year. It's best to discard plants two years and older, and buy year-old stock next April.
Load up on stakes at the garden shop, then pound three stakes into the soil around each chrysanthemum plant (at numbers 12, 4 and 8 on the face of the clock) to keep tender stalks erect. Wrap soft cord at 8, 16 and 24 inches above the soil line to encircle your mums, affording strength when the flowers unfold in two-plus weeks. Don't fertilize mums.
And, even though the snowball hydrangea flowers have toppled to the ground, drive stakes around the plant so you're able to encircle the stalks and keep them vertical. The flowers will turn a straw brown over the next month, but keeping them on the shrub is insurance against winter dieback and safeguards the dormant buds that have formed over the past six weeks.
In some landscapes, lacebugs are perpetual occupants of the azalea garden. Two generations of lacebugs thus far have taken their toll on the plants, but the third brood in the wings is the one that really decimates azaleas.
By the time these pests bed down for the winter, they will have siphoned off the sugar in most of the azalea leaves and turned the foliage gray-white. Come next spring, the plant will expend vital energy to color up these leaves a second time when the plant's food could better be used to manufacture new foliage.
Check the underside of azalea leaves now for lacebug damage. It usually shows as dark brown pencil-size dots, generally scattered on the foliage. Control lacebugs with liquid Cygon sprayed in the cool of the evening when no rain is forecast.
Use a hand-pump sprayer for best results, adding four teaspoons of Cygon for each gallon of water. Since Cygon is systemic, merely spraying the tops of the leaves will stop lacebugs quickly enough. One spray is all that's needed.
Because they have not been controlled, spider mites continue to destroy valuable shrubs and evergreens. If you have come upon a pine tree that has browned from top to bottom this summer, this is the typical work of mites. Spray ornamentals and conifers now to halt the mite population before more damage. Recommended sprays include systemic-acting Cygon and Orthene, and Kelthane which is a contact spray.
If you have hopes of planting daffodils, buy your bulbs this weekend and get them planted right away. Such bulbs require substantial moisture if spring flowering is to meet your expectations, so the sooner the bulbs are in the ground, the more prolific the flowers will be next spring. Work bulb-starter fertilizer into holes as you plant.
Other spring bulbs and corms may be planted anytime up to the last weekend of November.
Mild September temperatures notwithstanding, start preparing houseplants summering outdoors for the move indoors some three weeks hence.
Begin by discarding plants that fared poorly over the summer: those showing spotted foliage, lackluster growth and sparse flowers. The only surviving plants should be healthy specimens that you assemble in the garage this evening, then inundate them with Safer's insecticidal soap.
If you have a handful of plants, use the ready-to-use insecticidal soap, but resort to the liquid concentrate (5 tablespoons per gallon) if you have a dozen or more. Spray tops of all plants first, then turn pots on their side and spray undersides of foliage and stems. A pure organic product, Safer's only works when it contacts the insect (such as aphids or mites), so liberal, soapy sprays are a must. Spray every weekend this month to bug-proof plants before the move.
If you moved amaryllis indoors a month ago, the foliage should have died back by now. In the process, all energy was returned to the tuber in the soil. Leave the amaryllis undisturbed in the basement for the next four weeks.
If your amaryllis is still outdoors, continue your regular care program of keeping the soil lightly moist. Make your last feeding with liquid 20-20-20 this weekend or early next week, after which fertilizer will be discontinued.
Amaryllis should be moved indoors in early October.
Any surplus seeds should be stored now so they are of value next spring. Keep seeds in their packets. Add packets to a large rubber-seal jar, jotting down names of seeds on a sheet of paper as packets are inserted in the jar. Pick up some aluminum-foil packets of silica gel from a neighborhood craft store, removing the foil and placing one packet inside the jar. Screw the cap on firmly, and place the jar in a corner of the refrigerator for the fall and winter.
Seeds will be good as new for starting indoors or sowing in the outdoor garden next year.
Is your outdoor gardenia flowering? The cool morning temperatures of Aug. 21-23 triggered bud formation, and the late summer flowers now unfolding. Keep the soil lightly moist, but withhold all fertilizer.
If your gardenia was indoors back in August, the overnight temperatures weren't cool enough to force flower buds.
Sanitize hose-end and hand-pump sprayers used to kill weeds in the lawn in August. Add a tablespoon of chlorine bleach to the hose-end sprayer, two tablespoons of water, then coat the inside of the jar with the solution to neutralize traces of weed killers.
Attach the nozzle to the garden hose, mount the jar, then spray some of the bleach solution through the nozzle to neutralize remnants of chemical there.
Flush everything with water and the hose-end sprayer may be safely used in the future.
With the hand-pump sprayer, use 3 ounces of chlorine bleach to 9 ounces of water, cleaning in the same fashion. If garden tools are not cleaned, you will probably kill healthy plants the next time the tools are used.
Newly seeded lawns are not being cut, so now is a good time to install a new rotary blade on your power lawn mower.
Remove the ignition wire leading to the spark plug first, then raise the mower on its side with the right wheels in the air.
Use a small block of 2-by-4 wood to anchor the old blade in place while using the socket wrench to remove the retaining nuts and washers. Remove the blade, then temporarily put the washers and nuts back in place.
Take the blade to the mower shop for an exact replacement so you enjoy a manicured lawn when you resume cutting in about two weeks.
Jack Eden is the host of "Over the Garden Fence" Sundays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on WTOP Radio (1500 AM).