There is a flurry of back-to-school excitement in the air, but for us gardeners, we have up to three more months to enjoy and improve our outdoor surroundings. I will be focusing on improving as I was either away or distracted by the joys of grandparenting (Addy, Alex and Wyatt) for much of June and July.

When I returned from a visit with my son and his family in Arizona, my gardens were a science experiment in survival. I was surprised to see geraniums, heuchera (coral bells), lilies and canna blooming away with no help from any mortals. But there were a few fatalities in my pots of petunias, impatiens and euphorbia in spite of using potting soil with moisture beads. Good to know which ones I can count on – and that I really do need some help watering.

So, in August I will be replacing the dearly departed with mums and the bleeding heart, daylilies and iris that I have yet to divide and transplant. I had been wondering where the extras would go and now it is painfully obvious. Some areas will be planted with bulbs in the fall.

Containers usually need to be updated every few weeks. A plant may need to be replaced and the color scheme changes from spring to fall, too. I love the pastels of spring, but it’s hard to resist the vibrant colors of summer. In fall, even a touch of orange (my least favorite color) has its place in my gardens, playing nicely with purple which I love.

Keep fertilizing annuals in the ground and in your pots. Perennials and roses need to start getting ready for their long winter’s nap, so don’t fertilize them. Most flowers need to be deadheaded (spent blooms removed). If they look leggy, cut them back and they may flower again. I leave my echinacea (coneflowers) alone for the birds to enjoy the seeds all winter. Keep weeding. Especially the thistles! Any thistles you have will surely find a way to my gardens.

Next month I’ll be writing about the joys of joining a garden club. Fall fever strikes most of us and joining a garden club may satisfy the need to do something new, learn something new and make some new friends, too!