For gardening, this is one of those in-between times of year when summer chores are under control, but it is a bit too early for much of the work that will need to be done in autumn. Automated watering systems have already been adjusted for the longest and warmest days of summer, so they will need to be adjusted the other way as days eventually get cooler and shorter. Growth of most plants slows, and some of the plants that will be the earliest to show fall colors, begin to fade from bright green to paler green.
The last of the summer fruits should be gone, leaving the trees that produced them looking somewhat tired. The weight of large fruit, particularly peaches, might have pulled stems downward where they may now be obtrusive. Pruning a few minor stems should not be a problem. However, trees are still too active for major pruning. That needs to wait for dormancy while trees are bare in winter.
A few plants with sensitive bark are susceptible to sun scald if pruned to expose too much bark on interior stems while the sun is still high and warm. This is not as likely to be a problem if pruned during the winter because the sun is lower and cooler and foliage grows back before the following summer. That is why English Walnut and various maples are able to defoliate during winter, even though their smooth bark needs to be shaded.
Pruning of plants that are potentially sensitive to frost should likewise be delayed. Otherwise, pruning is likely to stimulate development of tender new growth that will be even more sensitive to frost during winter. Besides, new growth develops slower this time of year, so plants look freshly pruned for a longer time than if pruned late in the winter, just prior to spring.
The dried foliar remains of any summer bulbs that are finished blooming can now be plucked and disposed of. Gladiolus and montbretias that are still green can be deadheaded – pruned to remove deteriorated flower stalks – but should be allowed to turn completely brown before getting plucked. Watsonias are not so easy to pluck without also pulling up the bulbs, so should instead get their dried foliage pruned off.
Weeds outside of landscaped areas may not seem to be a problem, but many are now producing seed that gets blown into the garden. Even if such weeds do not need to be pulled, their flowers and seeding stalks should still be cut off and removed if possible.
Highlight: Naked lady
While so many flowers are finishing their bloom and leaving their drying foliage behind, naked lady, Amaryllis belladonna, is just beginning to bloom, naked of any foliage. Clusters of a few to several bright pink flowers stand on bare stems about two feet tall. Individual flowers are about two and a half to three and a half inches long, and resemble lily flowers. Foliage only appears after flowers deteriorate, and lasts only until weather gets warm late in spring. The strap shaped leaves are about a foot to a foot and a half long. Through summer, the two or three inch wide bulbs are dormant and bare, and seem to be dead with their tops visible at the soil surface, but retain fleshy roots below. They should therefore only be dug and divided if they get too crowded or need to be moved.