The Cambrian

A Gardener 's Notebook: That’s it! It’s time to put on the (gardening) gloves

When artichokes are done, cut to the ground.
When artichokes are done, cut to the ground. PHOTO BY LEE OLIPHANT

My garden looks a little scruffy. We’re constructing a new “sun room” and tearing out a portion of the garden to do it. We’ve had to remove a couple of liquid amber trees (Acer saccharum), some lavender, lavatera and some colorful groundcover in order to make space for the new room. Plants around the new structure took a beating and other parts of the garden are neglected and covered with dust. It’s time to “put on the gloves” and whip it back into shape.

Many of the plants are beyond their peak in September. Yellowing and damaged foliage needs to be removed, along with spent flowers and seed heads. Plants like daylilies and agapanthus need to be dug up and divided, and a few plants should go to their final resting place in the compost bin.

The ground is too dry and hard to do any serious planting but scratching up the soil will help water to penetrate the surface, lessening runoff. A few weeds have appeared over the summer and the more I can remove now, the less I’ll have to deal with in the spring.

Seed heads for calendula, gaillardia and poppies should be removed and sprinkled in bare spots. They’ll make a fine showing next year. Cut artichokes to the ground when they’ve finish producing.

Feeding plants with a slow release fertilizer like compost and manure is a way of supporting growth and soil health. Apply it to soil around the plant. This process is called “top dressing”. Avoid applying fertilizer with high nitrogen (first number). This will cause the plant to produce new tender growth that may be damaged by winter cold and wind. If you want to go organic, add bonemeal (beware, your dog will love it) or rock phosphate and pot ash to your compost. These will feed the plants slowly during the cooler season.

Tidy your garden and plant some color for winter. Both sweet peas and edible snow peas can be planted this month. Peas need warm weather to germinate but cool weather to bloom, so planting now will bring color and life to your garden when you need it most.

Lee Oliphant’s column is special to The Cambrian. Email her at cambriagarden; read her blog at