The cool weather that has rolled in has been a long time coming. It’s been a hot summer that swept in early and never seemed to let up. A sudden big break in temperatures has been well received in our garden. While we are not quite out of the woods yet when it comes to heat, our fruits, vegetables, and herbs are all racing to the finish line producing all they can until freezing temperatures arrive. September brings the last great harvests of the summer along with the wonderful flavors of fall.
Our September garden chores are loaded with things that help us think about and prepare for the year ahead. It is also time to get those fall vegetables planted up. The beginning of fall is in many ways like the scramble of spring. It’s a busy time, but the hard work pays off.
think about the year ahead.
Start the garden cleanup.
As crops are harvested, start removing the plants that are dying back from the garden. Tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, and beans will begin to close up shop this month, so remove the plants when they are done. Be sure to clean out plant debris, leaf litter, and any rotting fruits especially if you had a bad year with pests. Be diligent because pests and diseases can overwinter and plague you next year.
Save seeds for next year.
This is always part of our garden cleanup. For many vegetables and flowers, we like to save our own seed for next year. We usually select the most prolific plants and let them go to seed, letting pods or flowers harden and dry while still attached to the plant. By September, many plants like beans, lettuce, and many early root crops have flowered and produced their seed for the year. Remove the seeds and let them completely dry out before storing them in a cool dry location.
Divide and mulch perennials.
The mild temperatures of the later summer and early fall allow plants to survive the shock of division. Daylily, iris, liriope (monkey grass), rudbeckia (black eyed susan), yarrow, and many other perennials can be divided and replanted in the fall. The last warm weather of the year will encourage enough root growth for the plants to fully establish before winter.
Mulch newly planted and established perennials this month. It will give your plants a little boost going into the winter along with insulation for the roots in the cold weather.
Get a soil sample.
Now is the perfect time to get a soil sample. Getting a soil sample will help you pinpoint the ways to improve your soil. It is much easier to address your soil deficiencies when your gardens aren’t overflowing with flowers and vegetables. This is a must do if you have been getting poor results in a certain area (or many areas).
Turn your compost frequently. This is the last stretch before the compost is flooded with leaves and we begin the building processes all over. We try to finish off as much compost as possible to use in our fall mulching.
Plant your fall garden.
Plant your fall veggies.
Plant the last of your fall vegetables by the middle of the month. Broccoli, collards, chard, and other leafy greens are all great candidates for September plantings. Try planting a row or two of spinach, lettuce, and chard every couple of weeks for a continuous harvest.
Plant the empty spaces.
Use the open space to grow some winter greens or plant a cover crop for a green manure. Keeping something growing in your garden helps encourage good soil ecology. Planting a cover crop in your garden can add fertility back into the soil.
Start planning (and planting) trees and shrubs.
Fall is a great time to start planting trees, shrubs, and perennials again. Start planning now where you plan to plant. Plants that get transplanted in the fall have time to develop a better root structure going into the winter. Cooler temperatures .
Get your houseplants ready to come inside.
When temperatures start to dip in the later part of September, it’s time to bring the houseplants inside. When temperatures start to drop below 50, get any houseplants that may have a summer home outside ready to take to their winter residences. If you have a houseplant hoarding problem (like us), you might want plan out ahead of time in case there is a bit of furniture moving involved!
Get the most out of your fall garden.
As days grow shorter reduce the amount of water. Cooler temperatures help plants conserve more water. Keeping your gardens too wet can be devastating to some plants.
Fight off the pests.
Pick and smash all the typical pests you see as the summer winds down. Spring and fall gardens tend to be heavy on plants in the cabbage family. If you are plague by cabbageworms, apply Bt bacteria spray. Bt is a natural occurring bacteria that is toxic to many insects but harmless to birds, fish, and mammals.
Give your strawberries some love.
Set your strawberries up for a huge spring. Give your strawberry beds a good weeding. Replenish mulch around strawberries, and fertilize them. Keep them well watered through the fall, and expect great returns come springtime.