How many of us gave up and ignored the garden in August, the heat driving us indoors? Raise your hand if that’s you. It was me. It was too hot, and the perennial beds were one big, complicated mess. I opted to let the plants fend for themselves. As I look forward to the cooler days and nights of September, I’m regretting that decision—-the weeds took over. So, chore number one on the September garden chores list is weeds. Take a quick stroll through your garden and check the weeds. Check yourself too, and see if you can id them. Learn your weeds. Every gardener worth their weight in zucchini needs to know the competition.
1. September Garden Chores: Weed War
Weeding aims to stop the weed seeds from spreading and, hopefully, lessen the weeds for the next season.
If there’s no time for pulling, use super sharp snipers and cut those flowering-soon-to-be-seeds off. Seed head removal buys some time and helps reduce the spread. Remember, one year’s seed is seven years’ weed.
Weed after a good rain. The weeds are easier to pull up, root, and all.
Avoid mucking around too much in wet soil. If you can reach across, instead of stepping on damp soil, do so. Rake up the soil when finished to reduce compaction and runoff.
Do dispose of the weeds. Unless you’re a composting guru, throwing weeds out with the trash is probably best.
The compost needs to be hot to destroy the weed seeds. Turning up the temperature is as easy as turning the compost pile, but for the beginner, skip adding the weeds for now. You want your first go at composting to be successful. Next year, you don’t want to spread weeds into the garden directly from your compost bin. For more information on weeds and compost, click here on Weed Science Society of America’s site. (Lots of other great information on this site, as well. All about weeds.) And because some weeds are good to keep, read here.
Let’s identify a few of the bad guys.
2. September Garden Chores: Lawn Care
Now is the time to reseed bare places, aerate compacted areas, and add an inch layer of compost to the lawn.
Suggested time to add a layer of compost: mid-September and again mid-October to early November.
Lower the mower blades to 3″ instead of 3.5″ on the final mow. 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.
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, read here.
3. September Garden Chores: Cutting Back and Dividing Perennials
Many perennials are starting to yellow, indicating it’s time to cut the leaves back and divide if necessary. Remove yellowing leaves now (hostas are an excellent place to start).
Remove spent flowers, cutting back to plant level.
Remember, too, that perennials benefit from division every 3-5 years, so examine what perennials are starting to bleed out in the middle (dianthus, phlox, shasta daisy), and divide and transplant for a healthier plant. It’s an inexpensive and easy way to grow your garden. For a how-to on dividing perennials, read here.
Perennial Tip: Spring-to-early-summer blooming perennials divide in fall, and late summer-to-fall blooming perennials divide in spring.
Gardener’s rule of thumb: Divide when you have the time.
Landscape Tip: The longer you live in a landscape (unless you have no trees), the shadier it gets. Is it time to re-evaluate perennial beds? Which perennials are leggy and reaching for the sunlight? Or the opposite? Which ones are now getting fried from too much sun because you removed a tree? Or is the garden beautiful in spring but lacking in fall? If so, check out the store’s great selection of fall perennials: Anemones, Joe Pye Weed, plumbago, sneezeweed, asters, false sunflower, grasses, and more.
Peony Tip: Peonies prefer transplanting and dividing in September. For how to transplant peonies, here.
4. September Garden Chores: Pruning & Fertilizing
Do not prune shrubs or trees. For questions about pruning shrubs in the fall, read here. You can continue removing all dead/diseased/damaged/dying wood on shrubs and trees, where pests and diseases hang out. Pruning pushes out new growth that won’t have a chance to harden off before cold weather arrives, causing potential die-back. For this reason, skip fertilizing now, too. July 31st is the final day for fertilizing your landscape plants.
5. September Garden Chores: Plant Trees and Shrubs
September and October are good months to plant trees and shrubs. The soil temperature will stay warmer than the air temperature as night temperatures drop, forcing plants to focus on root growth over shoot growth. That’s a good thing since the goal is to have a sound 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, Check the amount of rain you’re getting, and don’t assume you can skip watering. Establishing plants with consistent watering is key to healthy, drought-resistant plants in the future.
The store is getting in truckloads of new stock soon and consider that it’s time for a re-do of the landscape. (828-650-7300, press 2.) call our landscape division to discuss.
6. September Garden Chores: Plant Veggies, Swap out Containers, Plant Bulbs
Veggies: Plant greens now. Plant mustard, radish, mixed greens, turnips, and more for a fall harvest. Here’s a quick how-to on planting and growing greens.
Container Gardening: Spruce up your seasonal pots. It seems early for pansies and violas, but getting them in the soil establishes sound root systems for a beautiful fall show (that lasts well into the next growing season). Plant now, and if the pansies begin to get leggy, shear them very short (about 2″), which forces root development and creates a tighter plant. 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.
Bulbs: Purchase them now. Decide on your bulbs and buy now. Where does the spring garden need sprucing up? How many bulbs and which varieties are needed? Make your list and purchases now. We sell out fast once the weather starts cooling down, so don’t dawdle.
If you’ve read this far, you know September is a busy month. Expect October to be just as challenging. If you want more information on the topics discussed here, the upcoming September blogs will be dedicated to a more in-depth look at lawns, planting bulbs, and dividing perennials.
Cinthia Milner is the landscape consultant, consultant, and blog writer for B.B. Barns Garden Center.
BB Barns Garden Center serves all of Western North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.