Asters Baked in the Sun

(Question)

I don’t know what happened, but with the temperature extremes in the west GTA last week, my asters, which were going to be my stars for the rest of autumn, just shrivelled. Should I just accept the situation and “cut” back losses for the season?

Even the asters growing between the old patio stones look better, probably because of the proximity to the house foundation milder temperatures, and distance from the focused sun exposure.

 

(Answer)

Unfortunately, your problem with the asters growing in your garden is pretty common this year. Most likely it’s weather related. The wet spring was great for gardens, however, the hot sun coupled with lack of rain over the past few weeks has had a detrimental effect on plants. A sudden watering is not going to bring them back to their former glory. The symptoms of drought are first noticeable at the top of plants.  Gradually they will work there way down the stem. Foliage wilts, edges of leaves turn brown or die completely. In your case the asters have “shrivelled”. When this happens plants may become less winter hardy, especially when it occurs in early Fall just as plants are about to go dormant. Luckily, there are strategies one can take to help minimize the effect of unusual weather on your garden. Some you can start right now – like applying mulch – while others you can practice in next year’s growing season.

For a successful season in the garden it is a good idea to monitor the weather forecast. If there is going to be a dry spell make sure you regularly water once a week. Apply at least an inch of water.  It is better to water once a week deeply than give a light sprinkle every day, as a deep watering encourages better root development, thereby making the plant stronger. Apply a 2-3 inch deep layer of mulch around plants to reduce evaporation and water runoff.  Mulch keeps roots cool in the summer and protects them in the winter. Remove any weeds that appear around your plants as they compete for valuable moisture in the soil.  It’s a good idea to stop applying fertilizer in dry spells because it encourages plant growth and hence the need for more moisture. Adding organic matter to your soil now will improve its nutritional content which in turn will ensure stronger plants next year.

If your asters are totally finished, which it sounds like they are, then cut back now in preparation for winter. Put mulch around the roots and hopefully they will perform well next year.