Overcoming Late-Summer Garden Issues

There's no avoiding it: Late summer on the East Coast presents a lot of challenges in the garden. High heat and humidity; crowded, overgrown plantings; heavy rains and dry spells are all only a few of the conditions gardens have to power through at this time of year. Here are a few of the most common pitfalls and how to manage them with aplomb.


Powdery Mildew

Photo by SBSArtDept via iStock.

One of the most common garden issues from May through September (but especially in August) is powdery mildew. This white fungus coats leaves and stems alike, and while it isn't often fatal, it does weaken growth and looks awful. We recommend using an organic sulfur-based fungicide from Bonide. Don't be alarmed if you smell sulfur after the first use; keep at it. A few weeks of persistent treatment and the mildew will clear up. Also, cut back surrounding plants to improve air circulation. This will help things dry up more quickly between summer squalls.


Cracked/Split Tomatoes

Image by Miyuki-3 courtesy iStock

Scabbed-over cracks on summer tomatoes confounds even the most experienced gardeners. They are typically caused by a dry period followed by very heavy rain or excessive watering, particularly in combination with hot weather. The best prevention is to micromanage the plants watering schedule as best you can. Check out our best practices for successful tomatoes from Issue 10 to learn even more.


But a crack does not mean all is lost! If the tomato is ripe, or even nearly ripe, you can still eat it as long you cut away the blemished area. But be sure to discard those that crack before ripening case of insect or fungal contamination.


Flopped-Over Perennials

Image courtesy Preen

In rain-drenched summers like this one on the East Coast, flopped-over perennials are a persistent nuisance. Support stakes leave things looking clunky and unnatural, but leaving them untouched means blocked pathways, smooshed underplantings, or brown grass. We suggest cutting them back and watching them regrow upright and bushy, likely with another set of blooms this season! You'll have about two weeks of a slightly bare spot but will be rewarded with a flush of new growth.