As the peak of summer winds down, many of us wonder what to do and what plants will keep a garden interesting in this transition period of (hopefully) the last summer heat and when it cools down.
Annuals often carry us through this change of season, but they are running out of steam and will need to be fed. A well balanced fertilizer is essential at this point because the whole plant needs strength to live another two months. Look for the numbers 20-20-20 on the fertilizer box. Do not be fooled into a high middle number, phosphorus. Though this may stimulate budding early in the summer, it will ultimately cause the plants to burn themselves out. Seaweed fertilizer and Superthrive are always good additions if you want to be serious, and of course, it never hurts to add compost and mulch.
Also, pinch off most of the dead seed heads to encourage new flowers. Do not pinch them all off because many of these seeds will drop and grow in your garden next year. If your annuals are tired and leggy, you will still have time to trim them back about halfway. They will bounce back twice as well. Favorite xeriscape annuals include California poppy, calendula, African daisy, cosmos, and all kinds of sunflowers.
Our remaining perennial flowers may need a little dead heading for looks but leave what you can because they too are slowing down on blooms. Some of the classic xeriscape flowers just seem to last forever, and almost become dried flowers on the stalks as the summer winds down, providing color for just a little longer. Some of the best are Russian sage, blue mist spirea, agastache cana, paprika yarrow and moonshine yarrow.