JoAnne Skelly: Tired of gardening yet?

About this time of year, I find my interest in gardening waning a bit. For one thing, it’s hot. For another, it’s already September and the first frost may not be far off, so why bother? In years past, I reminded people to expect the first frost about Sept. 15 in most areas. At our house, we were accustomed to at least one frost around Aug. 15. However, for a number of years now, the frost dates have been shifting. Now I advise gardeners to be ready for a frost by Oct. 1, although I suspect we will have one earlier than that here at our house.

I am astonished to see these warming changes just in the 31 years I have lived in Washoe Valley. Perhaps it’s not global warming, but rather an atypical series of warmer years here in Northern Nevada. However, I doubt that is the case as I observe all the changes everywhere, not just here. It’s not only our first frost date that has moved. It’s also the last frost date, which once was May 15, or June 1 in our case. Now it’s more like May 1 for most and May 15 for us.

Anyway, by September, I’m tired of weeding and digging grass out of my flower beds. I’m weary of watering outlying trees and areas of the yard that aren’t irrigated automatically. I am really over the ground squirrel problem, yet they keep coming. I’m sure my husband would like to be done with mowing, but the warm weather keeps the grass growing long. On a happy note, the long summer allows some of the flowers to rebloom and I’m glad the bumblebees and honey bees still have them to enjoy.

I don’t want to say I’m looking forward to fall, in case that brings on cold weather and the dreary winter. I am merely admitting to less interest in yard maintenance. I know that as soon as the weather cools, I will be ready to prune trees, transplant and cut things back.

I know I can’t give up taking care of the yard yet. A great chore for this time of year is lawn fertilization. I prefer a 16-16-16 fertilizer over a 21-0-0 for a September feeding. The grass gets the nitrogen it needs, but also phosphorus and potassium, which will provide nutrients for strong roots and good overwintering capacity.

JoAnne Skelly is associate professor and Extension educator, Emerita at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at


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