September is a busy time in the garden, especially this year when everything seemed to get a late start. If your garden is like mine, it’s just reaching peak vegetable and flower production. There is still much to be done.
In the vegetable garden, harvesting of zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, beans, squash and cucumbers continues. It’s also time to pick apples and pears. After a full summer’s work, it would be a shame to let any of this good food go to waste. If you’ve run out of ambition to can, freeze or dehydrate your garden’s bounty, share with neighbors or your local food bank. If nothing else, add the excess to your compost pile so it can provide nutrition to next year’s crop.
In the flower garden, things may be looking a little messy. Unless you are planning to save seeds, continue to cut back spent blooms. Make sure to remove weeds before they go to seed.
Pull up and compost both flower and vegetable plants that have fulfilled their purpose. Any diseased plant material, especially tomato vines, should be burned or bagged and placed in the trash.
In the greater landscape, be sure to keep shrubs, young trees and fruit trees well watered until they go dormant. Evergreens trees and shrubs should be kept hydrated until the ground freezes, which usually happens around Thanksgiving. Evergreen needles continue to transpire water all winter long but with the ground frozen, their roots can’t take up any additional water, so whatever water they get in autumn has to last until spring.
There is still time to plant grass in any bare spots in your lawn. Seeds may take a bit longer to germinate than they do in spring so don’t worry if growth doesn’t begin for ten days or more. Read the label on the grass seed to ensure that the seed is appropriate for your light conditions, either sun or shade or a mix of both. Read the small print to be sure that a significant percentage of the seed is perennial grasses to ensure that it survives over winter.
Fall is the best time to fight invasive plants such as buckthorn that may be encroaching on your landscape. Small plants are easy to pull after a good soaking rain. Larger plants can be pulled using a brush grubber, or cut and carefully painted with a brush-killing herbicide.
Now is the time to order or shop for bulbs of garlic as well as tulips, daffodils, crocuses, hydrangeas and other early spring blooming flowers so you have them on hand for their mid-October planting time.
Consider getting a head start on changes in your hardscape that you want to implement next spring. New paths, fences, flowerbeds, stones or rocks, even a water garden can be installed now. Otherwise, take a good look at your landscape and make notes or sketches of changes you want to make next year.