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End of summer in the garden: Q and A

September brings shorter days and cooler nights-- a sign that gardening season will soon be over.
Fall mums are a sign the garden veggie season is nearly done. Plunk a container of mums where your beans and lettuce used to be. Photo: Metro Creative Connection

September brings shorter days and cooler nights-- a sign that gardening season will soon be over. Should you take your veggies out of the dirt and off the stalks, or wait until frost? What about lawn care at this time of year? Alberta gardening expert Jim Hole answers a few questions about the late summer garden.

Q: Fall is almost here. Is it time to clear the garden?

Hole: If anything started blooming or growing as of mid-August, it won't make it before frost time, so don't waste the water or energy on these. We'd need July weather to have things grow now but having said that, I'm experimenting with cherry tomatoes this year to see how long I can go.

Q: But if our first frost comes about mid-September, isn't that the end?

Hole: If we know a frost is coming, I'd cover things with a light fabric and keep the vegetables growing. We usually get a few more weeks of heat after our first frost, so there's still time for established vegetables to continue to grow and ripen. And you can definitely leave carrots, onions, parsnips, potatoes for a good while yet--any underground veg will be best stored in the garden as long as possible.

Q: What should we focus on now?

Hole: Plant bulbs anytime now--tulips, daffodils--they're all in the garden centres now. And now is the perfect time to put in a new lawn--not too hot out--or re-sow seeds. Also, water evergreens steadily as long as you can. Cedars etc. need all the hydration they can get before freeze-up.

Q: The garden centres are filled with fall mums. Any special instructions?

Hole: Pick the colour you like and plop the entire container onto the bare spots on your garden, or to decorate your front step or back deck. The flowers can freeze though, so cover lightly if frost is forecast or stick the whole container in the garage overnight. Otherwise, the plant itself is fairly frost tolerant. There are early, mid and late-blooming mums, so you can go from yellows now to bronze and purple ones later.