Cut back perennials. If rhizomatous perennials have spread too far, dig out divisions and pot up or move to a new location. If earlier-blooming perennials are ragged, it’s fine to cut them back, especially if birds have already picked them clean of seeds. Unless foliage was diseased, I leave stems mostly intact and on site to provide habitat for beneficial insects.
Resist the urge to prune. Put the pruners down. Unless you’re removing dead wood or the old canes of blackberries (Rubus fruticosus spp., Zones 4–9), resist any urge to prune woodies until December. If you feel the need for control, look for any invasive plants on your property. It’s a good time to use glyphosate or mechanical means to put an end to their spread.
Continue to water. Summer in the Southeast is not over yet. Annuals, tropicals, and late-blooming perennials can keep going through the beginning of November, so don’t abandon watering and grooming. If needed, provide a last fertilizer on annuals, perennials, and roses (Rosa spp. and cvs., Zones 3–9).
Get ready for the next vegetable season. Unless you planted a second crop, the summer vegetable season is over, and your cool weather vegetable seeds should be in by now. Plant out additional transplants of leafy greens or root crops early in the month. Top-dress with compost and mulch, and of course, water—if the hurricane season doesn’t do the job for you.
Paula Gross is the former Assistant Director of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte Botanical Gardens.
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