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Garden tips: fall for spring flowers with early planning

Your plants probably need water right now, and other tips from a master gardener
John Hethrington is a Master Gardener living in Meaford where he tends 20 different gardens.

John Hethrington has been gardening since the age of 9. He spent his early life gardening in Toronto and earned his certification as a Master Gardener before moving to Meaford where he cultivates 2.5 acres with 20 different gardens.

There's more summer to enjoy, but a gardener knows it's time to start planning for fall and spring flowers. Here is an August-specific to-do list from area master gardener John Hethrington:

  • It has been maybe the driest summer on record. You need to water often and more importantly water deeply and slowly so it works into the soil.
  • Top up your mulch. Keep it at least two inches deep. It works to suppress weeds, keeps the soil cool and damp and retains the rain we get.
  • Sow vegetable seeds again for a fall harvest (e.g. spinach and some varieties of lettuce).
  • Tidy up plants and shrubs with a little judicious pruning, but early in the month.
  • Stake tall perennials against the wind.
  • Cut your grass at least two inches high to combat drying out. Water well when needed, or when it is allowed.
  • Check out bulb catalogues and order before they are all sold out from BBC, try ( for lots of unique varieties.
  • Order spring flowering bulbs now for planting in October.
  • Fill in any gaps in your flower garden with fall-flowering perennials, like mums and asters.
  • Start drying flowers and herbs. Pick your lavender now for drying.
  • Start to divide daylilies, iris and peonies later in the month.
  • Collect seeds that have matured but not yet fallen from the seed head on plants like poppies. Once they have completely dried, store them in air-tight containers in a cool location or sprinkle them around your garden for colour next summer.
  • Take a hard look at your garden and decide where there are empty spaces for new plants this fall. Identify any plants that have not performed well and plan to replace them with a fall planting program of shrubs and perennials.
  • Early fall is a great time to sow grass seed and plant perennials, trees and shrubs. You’ll get a big jump on next spring!
  • Look for the Grey County Master Gardener fall plant sale in the morning on Sept. 10 on the grass at Heritage Plaza in Owen Sound with lots of unique and unusual plants for sale.