“By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer’s best of weather,
And autumn’s best of cheer.”
– Helen Hunt Jackson
– from “September”
The best of both worlds is present in the garden during the month of September. There is the last of the summer harvest to be gathered, but with the reddening of dogwoods, and the cooler evenings, we will find it difficult to mutter too loudly under our breaths as we gather it. Now we can turn our attention to those jobs which summer’s heat make unpalatable, such as digging new beds or building garden structures. September gives us a chance to miss the summer before it’s gone.
- The fall garden is here, whether you prepared for it or not. If you have good sized kale or collard seedlings, you should be able to get away with one more planting, but forget about a last sowing of green beans. Garlic should be planted soon for an early summer harvest and you should be able to squeeze in a sowing of leaf lettuce at the beginning of the month.
- If you have a cold frame, planting lettuce seeds throughout the month can give you a respectable crop of winter greens. Look out for an old duvet or comforter at thrift stores for insulating your frame on cold nights.
- Bulbs, bulbs, bulbs. At this time of year you can get a very respectably sized daffodil or allium from large chains like Costco, but if you are looking for a specialty snowdrop, you’ll need to get that order in very very quickly. Like yesterday.
- Great month of the year to build. A shed, a coop, a deck, a fence, a….well you name it. After the winter has had a good go at beating the heck out of pressure treated wood with wind and rain, you’ll be able to stain it in the spring. Always give treated wood at least six months before staining.
- Time to move those plants you have wanted to move since July. If you are moving magnolias, you’ve got a very small window right now – your next chance is early spring.
- If you have a lawn and wish to feed it, now is the time to do so. Re-seeding or sowing a new lawn is also a good job for cooler September days.
- Test your soil pH and amend your soil as necessary to give the winter a chance to temper additions of lime or sulfur. This is not a job you want to do in the spring – plants can burn up from soil that’s had its pH recently amended.
- Good time to amend the organic content of your soil with compost or manure, but avoid putting actual fertilizer (organic or non) on your soil till spring. The active ingredients will only leach out over the winter, particularly the nitrogen.
- The earlier you can start thinking about your winter refugees (those plants that must be protected indoors) the better. Houseplants that you wish to display should come in earlier rather than later (mandevilla, shefflera, citrus) to minimize leaf loss. Start to get a plan in mind, so all is not chaos at the end of the month.
- If you are potting up smaller plants, rooted cuttings etc… into larger pots for the winter – do so now. That plant needs as much time as possible to adjust to a larger pot and put some roots out. Make sure that unplanted pots are kept in a sheltered location with access to natural rainfall.
- Don’t forget to gather unusual seed heads and dried flowers from your garden for inside decorations over the winter. If you let summer hydrangea heads go much longer, mildew will be the overwhelming theme of all bouquets.