Late summer or early fall is the best time to plant most shrubs and perennials. ( Chicago Botanic Garden )

Gardening columnist Adrian Higgns took questions on gardening in the summer in a recent online chat. He helped several readers tackle planting in small spaces. Here’s an edited excerpt of his advice:

Privacy trees for a small yard: Your choice of tree really depends on the space available, meaning the width available. Most people craving privacy in urban gardens make the mistake of planting big-boned conifers that quickly become contorted from lack of room and light. You should consider the Burford holly, osmanthus, Hick’s yew, maybe the Chindo viburnum. Think thin. 

Protecting herbs from cold weather: Basil isn’t hardy in our region, but rosemary, mint and flat-leaf parsley are — with the proviso that the last two winters killed a lot of stuff, including rosemary. If you want an indoor winter herb garden, I would plant afresh in containers in September (if you can find young plants) and keep the pots in a cool, bright room.

Timing shrubs and perennials in a small yard: Late summer or early fall is the best time to plant most shrubs and perennials, because you will get a jump on root development and plant establishment before the next growing season. Hardy plants should be fine; don’t plant them too deeply, don’t overwater them, and give them a light mulch.

August is not too late to start a container garden: I would sow cilantro seeds and thin them as necessary. You could also get a late round of nasturtium; seeds sown now will form nice plants by October before frost does them in. Arugula would be a great bet, after flea beetle season.

More from Home & Garden:

Five annuals to plant in late summer

How to compost, and why it’s a good idea

The potted herb garden is easy

Our favorite pots for spring plantings

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