“Look Mom, a school bus!” a phrase I hear almost every day on my morning commute.  I’ve had a break for the last couple of months, but it’s back to school time and the buses are back.      

The carefree days of summer were fun, and chores were easy to put off, but it’s time for the kids to sharpen their pencils and hit the books. For the rest of us, we need to sharpen our pruners and get our landscapes back in shape. August is a great time for light clean-up and maintenance before the leaves start to pile up.  Here are a few easy ways to spruce up your outdoor space right now.

1) Pop of Color -  Mixed containers can start to look tired this time of year and can greatly benefit from simply replacing one or two bedraggled plants with fresh zinnias, pansies or mums to carry the container through fall.

2) Be Picky – This is the time of year when vegetable plants are producing more than most of us can eat or share with neighbors.  Be sure to harvest vegetables as soon as they ripen.  Waiting too long can cause them to rot on the vine and attract insects. 

3) Mum’s the Word - Though garden mums are cold hardy in this area, it can be a challenge to get them to live through the winter as a true perennial would.  The secret is to plant them as early as possible so they can establish a strong root system.  Strong roots keep the plant from frost-heaving in the winter, which is the most common cause of death.  Other tips include waiting until spring to cut back and mulching the plants once the ground freezes. 

4) The Grass is always Greener – From heavy rain to high heat to frequent mowing, lawns have taken a beating this summer.  They need fertilizer every six weeks, so apply it if it’s been awhile.  Also, keep an eye out for brown spots that could indicate disease or a grub infestation.  Weeds are starting to pop-up in lawns and in garden beds.  If you have a weed problem, bring in a sample and let the experts show you the best way to treat.

5) Holy Moly – As the weather cools, mole activity increases and those pesky raised tunnels can ruin a lawn in just days.  Take action as soon as a mole is suspected and treat with Bonide MoleMax, a safe, non-toxic repellent, that lasts for two months. 

The ringing of the school bell certainly signals the start of shorter days and cooler weather, but it reminds us to enjoy our outdoor spaces before it’s too cold.  If you’re lucky, maybe you can get the kids to pull some weeds on the way to the bus stop.