Fried Yard, a late-summer phenomenon

All you did was take a one week trip in early August, and everything looked either parboiled or deep fried to a crackly crunch when you came back.

Does this sound familiar? Or maybe you didn’t even need to leave for it to happen, it just sneaked up on you through the last dry month. If so, what can you do to make it look better?

Perennials are easy. You cut them off to the ground and they come back up, often in time to rebloom this fall. Give them a nice handful of organic fertilizer, and keep them adequately watered from here on, and they’ll be fine.

Lawns are easy, too. Mow it short, give it a light fertilizing, and water it regularly. Or just leave it a nice golden color, it’s pretty that way, too. Makes the shrubs look greener.

Annuals are harder. Some, like petunias, impatiens, lobelia and verbena will come back fine from a burned state with a hard cutting-back. Others, like zinnias and cosmos, are so upright in their growth that cutting them short will set them back too much. Snip off any collapsed parts, pull off the worst shriveled leaves. Then, with all of them, water regularly, and fertilize weekly – not weakly, weekly – to help them grow back. If they look like they’re not strong enough to recover, don’t waste time and effort on them. If it’s early enough in the summer and you can afford it, replant with more of the same. We have crops of annuals growing here all summer at Egan Gardens. If it’s late summer, pull them out and replant with pansies to last you through fall, winter and next spring.

Shrubs and trees are the hardest. A hydrangea with all its leaves burned brown on the edges just isn’t going to improve much in appearance until those leaves fall off. At least deciduous shrubs and trees will look normally bare by late fall. However, rhododendrons and azaleas with rusty brown burned patches on the centers of the leaves won’t cover those up until next June. All will recover, though, except possibly some newly-planted shrubs.

So what does this mean? You should never take a trip in summer or your garden will take vengeance on you for your daring to ignore it? Some of us are lucky enough to have good reliable neighbors to help out, others are not so fortunate. What we need in this town is a garden-watching service, like dog and cat boarding services. I think I just thought of a nice retirement job.

Happy gardening,

Ellen