5 Garden Projects That Are Perfect For The Late Summer

The latter weeks of summer are a prime time to do great things in the garden, if you know what to plant or where to dig.

August 31, 2017
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Even in the garden, timing is everything—as anyone who hasn’t kept up with the weeding well knows. But if you haven’t done as much gardening this summer as you wanted to, that doesn’t mean you’ve missed your garden-tending window completely. In fact, there are lots of ways you can still get your hands dirty.

For suggestions, we turned to Mike McGrath, former Editor-in-Chief of Organic Gardening magazine, and current host of the radio show You Bet Your Garden, broadcast on WHYY FM in Philadelphia and syndicated nationally. Here are his picks for you late bloomers out there:

(Whether you're starting your first garden or switching to organic, Rodale’s Basic Organic Gardening has all the answers and advice you need—get your copy today!)

sprouted garlic before planting garlic
Copit/ Getty
Grow Some Garlic

“If it were up to me,” says McGrath, “This would be numbers 1, 2, and 3 on everybody’s list: Plant garlic, plant garlic, plant garlic. It’s just ridiculously easy to grow, and, because good garlic is so expensive, you’ll get a great return on your investment.” People in colder, northern parts of the U.S. should begin planting garlic in mid-August, while people in warmer climes can wait until mid-September. That means you’ll need to order your bulbs now. Order from a major seed catalog (to avoid fungus), suggests McGrath, and they’ll ship the bulbs out as soon as they’re ready for growing, which means you’ll get the best quality.

Related: 3 Really Easy Ways You Can Make Your Garlic Last Much Longer

building a rebar raised bed
John Borgoyne
Build Some Beds

“If you have garden envy but haven’t done anything yet, I suggest you start planning and building a couple of raised beds right away,” says McGrath. The process may take awhile, but you can be ready to grow by fall. Here’s what you do: Pick a spot (you want full sun all day in a cool climate; partial shade in a warm climate), and remove all the grass. Next, till up the soil (which will expose dormant weed seeds to the sunlight), add compost or other organic matter, level out the bed, then water the bare soil twice a day. Weeds will sprout; give them two weeks to waste their time and energy then slice them off at the soil line with a sharp hoe. “Now you’ve got a home for your garlic bulbs in mid- to late August,” enthuses McGrath.

Here's our guide to building a simple raised bed, even if you think you cant:

Ignatiev/Getty Images
Troll For Leftover Pepper Plants

If you live in a warmer climate, check your local garden center for pepper plants that haven’t yet been sold, and see if you can pick up a plant or two for a pittance. Sweet peppers are a warm-season veggie and can be harvested through October, so August isn’t too late to plant. Of course, the warmer your climate (and the longer your summer), the more you’ll get out of them. If you’re a flower lover, the same goes for marigolds, petunias, impatiens, and begonias.

A rule of green thumb: “If you’re going to put anything in the ground now, plant in the evening to give the plants time to get acclimated before they fry in the hot summer sun,” suggests McGrath. “Water them well, mulch them with compost, and shade them in the afternoon sun with a beach umbrella.”

Related: A Step-By-Step Guide To Growing Peppers

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bird bath
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Install A Birdbath

“Birds have lots of natural food during the late summer, but they may be hurting for water,” says McGrath. “Besides, a birdbath will bring in birds more reliably than a feeder.” Those birds are not only fun to watch, some will help clear your yard and garden of insect pets. Just make sure to change the water every couple of days to keep it clean and free of mosquito larvae.

Related: Here's Why You Should Definitely De-Ice Your Birdbath This Winter

a bean plant
Find Bush Bean Seeds On Clearance

There’s no time to mail-order seeds for these beans that grow on bushes as opposed to vines. Head to an independent garden center, scour their shelves for bush bean seeds (that are all almost entlrely on sale by now), and plant immediately. “Some varieties will produce their first edible pods for you about 50 days after you put the seeds in the ground,” says McGrath.

Related: How To Grow A Bounty Of Beans