Late summer tips for gardeners

Late summer offers a host of rewarding gardening work that produces both beauty and bounty.

Each gardening season has its merits and late summer is no exception. While perhaps not as showy as springtime, August and September offer a host of rewarding gardening tasks that produce both beauty and bounty. Here are several late summer gardening tips.


Houseplants. Monitor houseplants placed outside for insect pests so that you don’t bring pests in with the plants this fall.

Trees and shrubs. Early fall through mid-October is a good time to plant new trees and shrubs. Start thinking about what to plant as soon as the weather cools down later this month (August). Consider plants that have four-season interest and loads of winter character. Pruning now is NOT recommended!

Flowers. Early fall is a good time to dig and divide perennials. Select clusters that are not blooming as prolifically now. Many perennials benefit from being divided every three years, while some prefer never to be touched. Consult a comprehensive perennial maintenance book for recommendations by scientific name to avoid confusion. Keep deadheading all your flowers to encourage re-bloom and be sure to remove any leaves with black-spot, mildew or other diseases.

Lawns. Get ready for Labor Day, lawn fertilization day! This application will help turf regain some thickness it may have lost over the summer months. Remember, only one pound of actual nitrogen per thousand square feet.

Vegetables and fruit. Harvest time for vegetables and some fruits means looking for adequate preservation information. Contact your local MSU Extension office, 1-888-678-3464 (1-888-MSUE-4-MI), for food preservation information and classes.


Houseplants. Inspect houseplants that have been outdoors for insects and prepare to bring them in. Some can tolerate cool temperatures better than others and bring them in accordingly. Once placed inside, plants will adjust to lower light levels by dropping lower leaves. On Ficus (fig), leaf drop due to temperature changes can be dramatic, but is normal. Decrease the amount of fertilizer and water provided in late fall and early winter months.

Trees and shrubs. Keep planting!

Flowers. Dig tender perennials, such as Canna, Dahlia, and elephant ears (Colocasia), before a hard frost. Store for next year’s garden, but place them in garage or root cellar where temperatures are cool but frost-free.

Lawns. Seed new lawns or bare spots if needed. September is a great time to establish new grass plants due to increased rainfall and decreased temperatures. Weed seeds are not as likely to compete in fall seedlings, also. Be sure to purchase quality seed. Remember to apply fertilizer based on soil test recommendation for your lawn. Depending on rainfall, watering may need to continue into late September. Early fall is also a good time to incorporate broadleaf weed control on established lawns. Do not use “weed-n-feed” products on flowers and vegetables!

Vegetables and fruit. Harvest winter squash and allow them to thoroughly dry before storing. Frost can occur this month, so cover tender vegetables with plastic or cloth to prolong your harvest season of tomatoes and peppers. Vegetables like cabbage, parsley and spinach can tolerate cold well. Pick up any fallen fruit around fruit trees. This helps reduce the chance that pests such as apple maggot and codling moth will overwinter and wreak havoc next year.

For additional gardening information, call the MSU Extension Lawn and Garden Hotline at 1-888-MSUE-4MI (1-888-678-3464). You can also visit

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