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Green Acre #481: Last-Minute Planting

Colorful caladium provide some pizzazz in a mid-season garden.

By Stephanie Cavanaugh

MOST GARDENERS, when starting out, and perhaps a decade or two beyond, pack their gardens with spring bloomers, focusing on the flash of tulips, the soft sweetness of peonies, the dazzling scent of roses, the stately iris, and so forth—leaving little space for flowers that will continue performing until it’s time for pumpkins and pansies. 

And all of those springtime beauties appeared in a rush starting in early April and are frequently kaput by late June. 

Summer has barely started and the show’s over. 

Yet! There are a host of annuals, some perennials, and bulbs that can still be planted in late June and July, providing plenty of summer color. 

Though many of the plants you’ll find at garden centers this late in the season will be sad and bedraggled, they’ll no doubt be on deep sale—so nice for the parsimonious—and, like foundling puppies, will perk up quickly when fed and watered and cooed over.  

While you can’t expect a late crop of tulips, which need months of cold to flower, dahlias and gladiolus bulbs will emerge in about a month. If you like a jungle feel to go with your frozen margaritas, then cannas and caladium will put on a strikingly colorful performance, particularly when planted along with elephant ears, which are green (though sometimes black) and can grow to fabulous size, providing distraction from the shrivels of spring, which is a good book title, I think.   

Forget trying to plant seeds; there isn’t time for them to reach flowering size this season. Really, I know this, though that has never stopped me from trying.  

Go ahead and plant moonflower seeds, though; they don’t come up until late in the season anyway, and what a treat is their scent. Morning glories are often planted along with the moonflowers so you get flowers day and evening. They might do well for you if planted now. Follow directions to nick and soak the morning-glory seeds, soak the moonflower ones, to get them off to a fast start.

Watering frequently and deeply is key to late-season planting. If you can dig up a cool, rainy, miserable morning, that would be best for planting. Second best is evening, when the air is less brutal, settling them with a hefty drink. You want the plants to feel less shocked in the move, and the moisture will allow their little rootsies to wriggle about, nestle in, and grow. 

Let us not discuss vacation getting in the way of caring for your patch: Surely there’s a teen around the neighborhood who can be bribed to keep things watered. 

Potato update! Last week I said the chunk of aged and gnarly russet potato I’d planted in mid-June had become a shapely green plant. A week later, and feeling too lazy to bother cutting, I stuck a whole potato, encrusted with eyes, into a pot of any old soil. This morning it was up and flourishing. 

Maybe I’ll try this with some old carrots. 

Hat tip! My Panama hat, essential for messing about in the garden sun, had been bashed about so much that the brim developed a cockeyed droop that was less than fetching. I gave the brim a good dampening, top and bottom, with spray starch, and set it on a flat surface to dry. Back to perfect in like 10 minutes.   

One thought on “Green Acre #481: Last-Minute Planting

  1. patricia spirer says:

    Loved it

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