Master Gardener: Late season blooms, next year's garden and growing salad options

Chris Himmelwright
Pratt Tribune
Hardy hibiscus flowers often bloom late in the summer, adding color to many yards and landscapes.

Plants for Late Season Bloom

Landscapes are often drab this time of year. You can add interest to your home by planting shrubs this fall or next spring that flower later in the growing season. Consider one or more of the following.

Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) is a tall shrub that produces single or double flowers. Colors range from white to red, purple or violet, or combinations, depending on the variety.

Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) are dwarf-to-tall shrubs or trees. They are not reliably winter hardy in Kansas and often die back to the ground. Crapemyrtle flowers on new wood, so plants pruned (or killed) to the ground while dormant in late winter or early spring will bloom later the same year. Flower color varies from white, pink, to purple or deep red on different plants.

Bluebeard (Caryopteris x clandonensis) is also known as blue-spirea, blue-mist shrub, or caryopteris. It usually is found with blue flowers, but some cultivars have a bluish-violet to violet flower color. Plants are usually cut back in late winter or early spring. Flowers are borne on the current season’s growth.

Preparing the Vegetable Garden for Next Year

If there are areas of the garden that are done producing, chop and shred residue in preparation for tilling. If soils are wet, wait a few days so the soil is no longer muddy. Tilling in residue allows plant material to decompose and helps reduce insect and disease problems for the next year. Also consider using a cover crop to hold the soil and increase the organic matter content of the soil. Small gains such as wheat should be seeded at 3/4 to 1 pound of seed per 1,000 square feet from mid-September to late October. Spring oats can also be seeded until mid-September but the rate should be 2 to 4 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Spring oats will winter kill and can be tilled under in the spring. Legume cover crops such as hairy vetch, alfalfa and sweetclover provide an additional benefit by ‘fixing’ nitrogen, thereby increasing fertility of the soil. Each of these should be seeded at about 1/4 to ½ pound of seed per 1,000 square feet of garden. Sweetclover should be seeded during from August to early September and hairy vetch and alfalfa from mid-August to late September.

Still Time for a Salad Garden

Plant salad crops such as lettuce, radishes, spinach, turnips, mustard and other greens from mid-August to early September for a fall harvest. Plant slightly deeper than you did in the spring. This will keep the seed slightly cooler though still warm and the soil should retain moisture longer. Water frequently (if needed) until seedlings start to emerge — which should be fast with our warmer soils. Watering heavy soils can sometimes cause a crust to form. This can be prevented by a light sprinkling of peat moss, vermiculite or compost directly over the row. Reduce watering frequency after plants emerge. Plants may need to be protected from hungry rabbits and insects.

* Adapted from the Kansas State Horticulture Newsletter