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Reap garden's rewards, save some garden tasks for cooler days

Media Contact: Catherine Dehdashti, University of Minnesota Extension, office 612-625-0237, cell 651-329-2427,

ST. PAUL, Minn. (7/19/2012) —Late summer is a time when the garden is well established and producing. "Some people like working in their garden so much that they have a hard time just enjoying the bounty," said Jeff Gillman, a University of Minnesota Extension Horticulturist.

Gillman says there are things gardeners should keep doing, like keeping plants watered, weeding and removing spent flower heads. But in his book "Decoding Garden Advice: The Science Behind the 100 Most Common Recommendations," co-written with Extension Master Gardener Meleah Maynard, Gillman writes that some tasks are better left until early fall when the weather cools down.

Here are some of Gillman and Maynard's tips:

Wait to plant spring-flowering plants until autumn. Home and garden stores start selling them in July, but autumn provides the most favorable environmental conditions for getting these plants and bulbs established. In the fall, soil still maintains the summer's warmth, but without the added heat and water stress on plants associated with the summer months.

"When planted in the fall, plants do not experience the added stress of having to develop roots while expending much of their energy blooming in the heat of the summer," said Gillman.

If planting or transplanting during the summer, take extra precautions. Even though it may not be the most ideal environment, you may still plant or transplant during the summer months, just make sure you keep plants well watered, and plan on providing these plants a little extra shade to reduce stress.

"Even better, wait to move plants until more favorable conditions exist in the fall," said Gillman You can move plants at any time of the year except when the ground is frozen. "However," he said, "by moving plants in autumn, you won't have to fuss over them as much as you would when conditions are less favorable."

When planting or moving plants in the fall ensure enough time before winter freeze. With the harsh temporal conditions associated with Minnesota winters, it is important to provide enough time for plants to establish their root structures before the ground freezes for the winter. According to Gillman and Maynard, a good rule of thumb for both transplanting and planting is to allow four to six weeks before the initial freeze to help avoid losing plants during the winter.

Avoid adding fertilizer to your garden until the fall, or temperatures cool down. When plants are under the stress of the summer months, fertilizer can compound this stress by making water less available to plants in the soil.

"Though different plants have different ideas about what cool is, temperatures of 60 degrees to 75 degrees can be considered good for fertilizing," Gillman said.

For more educational information about gardening, visit the University of Minnesota Extension's garden page at

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