Gardening in August

Despite the heat and humidity, August is an important month for observing life in the garden, perhaps one of the most valuable gardening activities. I carve out time to putter often around my home garden, a 5,000 sq. ft. meadow and prairie-inspired garden that surrounds the frontage of my house. And all this puttering usually leads to weeding.

In diverse, pollinator friendly planting schemes, remember that density is your friend. Putting plants into competition with one another provides habitat for wildlife and sets in motion their ecological personalities that you can leverage to your benefit: more plants leads to fewer gaps for weeds that cause young gardens to struggle.

If you’re looking to add more plant density to your garden, goldenrods are a tried-and-true favorite.

Plant We Love: Goldenrod

Solidago speciosa

August is high season for prairie-inspired gardens with classic perennials like goldenrods (Solidago spp.) stealing the scene with vibrant golden flowers, which happen to be invaluable nectar sources for a wide range of pollinating insects.

Although goldenrods are often blamed for fall allergies, the actual culprit is Ambrosia, commonly known as ragweed, which flowers stealthily at the same time and sheds pollen grains that irritate receptors in our noses. This is good news to gardeners everywhere because goldenrod species are horticulturally and ecologically valuable.

Of the dozen or so species of goldenrod native to Iowa, two species stand out as favorites: Solidago rigida (stiff goldenrod) and Solidago speciosa (showy goldenrod). Stiff goldenrod is a stately and architectural plant with flat-topped flowers on tall stems. In contrast, showy goldenrod has plume-shaped inflorescences and blooms later in the autumn. In late fall, both offer beautiful puff clouds of seeds, palatable and popular with goldfinches, and the stems and leaves may change from green to rich burgundy.

Do you grow goldenrods in your garden? Let us know on Facebook or Instagram.