September Chores: Just in Time for College Football

'Kimberly Queen' fern shining in my woodland garden. It is 3' tall (not in the urn) and 3' wide. Worth every penny.

First, let's give a shout out to anything still looking good after a summer of extreme heat, little rain, and Japanese beetles. In my "woodland garden" (air quotes for the very small strip of space between two trees I fancily call my woodland garden) where dry soil reigns and Japanese beetles hang out, I filled in the blank spaces (read: dead plants) with Kimberly Queen ferns in large urns. Yeah for Kimberly Queen ferns! I never watered them, the Japanese beetles ignored them, and they thrived. A few other standouts: Limelight hydrangeas, Black and Blue Salvia, my roses!, Sombrero Adobe Orange echinacea, and zinnias. Please tell us below about any plants that made you happy while you watered away.  


A great book for identifying and understanding your weeds. Click here for more information.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and all that. Weed now for better success with weeds in the spring. The purpose of weeding is to stop the weed seeds before they set seed (One year seed, seven's year's weed--just full of cliches today.) That's more easily accomplished if you know your weeds and you're persistent. A once through pass won't cut it, and timing is crucial. For spot places that need extra care, try layered cardboard or newspaper smothered in mulch, which is very effective. Weed the area first, water it well, then put down cardboard or newspaper, and mulch. If you want to plant in that area, cut small x's in the cardboard and continue to water the plants. Substantial perennials and shrubs work best. 

For the more difficult weeds, try this book

Focus on these weeds now: Knotweed, curly dock, bindweed and ragweed.


Now is the time to reseed bare places, aerate compacted places, and add an inch layer of compost to the lawn as we near the end of the growing season. (Suggested time for compost: mid-September and again mid-October to early November). On the final mow, be sure to lower the mower blades to 3" instead of 3.5". Leave your lawn clippings unless you've had to wait too long to cut and the grass clippings are matted down, then remove and compost those. Consider adding clover to your lawn as it helps with nitrogen fixation, helps push out unwanted weeds, doesn't get over 4-8" tall and grows well with grass. For more information on clover, click!

FYI: Ian Farthering will be giving you all the lawn care advice you need on Saturday, September 10 at 11a.m. at BB Barns. Sign up now


Sedum 'Autumn Joy' (combined with apricot drift rose) is a great fall perennial that bees love.

Take this cooler weather opportunity to divide or transplant perennials. Rule of thumb: Spring blooming perennials divide in fall, fall blooming perennials divide in spring. But gardener's rule of thumb: Divide when you have the time. The longer you live in a landscape, (unless you have no trees) the shadier it gets. It may be time to evaluate your perennials. Which ones are leggy and reaching for the sunlight? Or the opposite. Did a tree fall and now your "woodland" garden gets too much sun? Remember, perennials benefit from division every 3-5 years, so examine what is starting to bleed out in the middle (dianthus, phlox, shasta daisy), and divide and transplant for a healthier plant. 

Peonies are one perennial that don't like to be moved, but sometimes it's necessary and September is that month. For how to do it, click!

Pruning and Fertilizing

Do not prune shrubs or trees now, and no fertilizer either. (One thing you don't have to do!) Fertilizing should stop at the end of July. You can, however, continue to remove all dead/diseased/damaged/dying wood on shrubs and trees, which is a great place for pests and disease to hang out. You don't want new growth pushing out now that won't have a chance to harden off before cold weather sets in, causing potential die-back.


Seiryu maple in fall. Consider adding some fall color to your garden now. (Picture courtesy of Chris Stone, perennial buyer at BB Barns Garden Center.)

Now is a good time to plant trees and shrubs. The soil temperature will stay warmer than the air temperature as night temps drop, forcing plants to focus on root growth over shoot growth. That's a good thing, since plants need a good root system. Traditionally, we get more rain in the fall and early spring than in the summer, which is another good reason to plant now. That said, the first two weeks of September are predicted for dry and after our drought of a summer, please be sure to water new plantings consistently and well, even through winter and early spring. The store just got in our fall stock (and more coming) of trees and shrubs for fall. Don't wait, it goes fast.


Fall transplants have arrived at the store. Plant mustard, radish, mixed greens, turnips, and more now for a fall harvest.

Picture courtesty of Nancy Martemucci. Read more about her garden here

Annuals and Container Gardening

It may seem early for pansies and violas, but getting them in the ground now establishes a good root system for a beautiful fall show (that lasts well into next growing season). Plant now and if they begin to get leggy, give them a haircut (which forces root development). New growth will happen quickly and they'll be blooming again soon. Mix with annual mums, heirloom pumpkins and evergreens for a great fall display. 


Sadie Jane ready for some football. (Couldn't resist, my granddaughter.)

Yes, start planning where, how many, and which ones now. We sell out fast once the weather starts cooling down. Make your list and start planning now. 

That is surely enough for today. The upcoming September blogs will be dedicated to a more in-depth look at lawns, fall clean-up and prepping for winter. We will also be offering a month's worth of classes on the subject of clean-up, lawn care, and conifer gardening. The descriptions of the classes and registration is here. 

Now, let's see if Justin Yoon can kick a 50 yard field goal in in today's game.  

AAP, Cinthia

Cinthia Milner is the garden coach, outside sales staff and blog writer for BB Barns. 

BB Barns Garden Center serves all of Western North Carolina, upstate South Carolina, and Tennessee.