Here we are in the beginning of September. What a summer this has been! The temperatures are cooling down and we are getting more regular rain. If this weather pattern keeps up it will be time for fall gardening chores. The following are some things you can do:
The first step is to assess what you think needs to be done. I like walking around the garden with a notebook and writing down ideas of what should be divided, moved, or eliminated as well as what you’d like to add or change for next year.
Second, I prioritize chores into things to be accomplished this fall and those that can wait until spring.
Moving and dividing: Due to the wet spring many perennials are extra large, crowding each other, and will need some attentionThe basic strategy is if it blooms in the spring divide it in the fall and if it blooms in the fall divide it in the spring. This, however, is a generalization that has lots of exceptions.My priorities are to take care of the spring blooming perennials first then see how much time and energy I have left.Signs that a perennial needs to be divided are: overcrowding, reduced blooms, not doing well in that location &/or a “doughnut hole” in the center of the plant which is an indication it needs to be divided.When moving any plant try and get as many of the roots as possible and dig the planting hole no deeper than the root mass but twice as wide. It’s also good to add 1/3 compost to the planting hole to give the soil a nutritional boost.Extra plants can be shared or potted up for use next season.
To winter over potted perennials, you can sink them in the ground and cover them with leaves or put them together in a sheltered area like next to the garage or house and cover with leaves. I have had good luck sinking them in my compost pile.- Other fall chores: It’s a good time to plant trees and shrubs. Check local nurseries for sales. Perennials will be on sale as well. Check sale plants, trees and shrubs carefully for signs of insects and disease. An unhealthy or infested plant is no bargain.
Trees and shrubs, as well as perennials should be planted when they will have at least 4 weeks for their roots to settle in and should be well watered until the soil freezes.This is a good time to cut back stems on plants that are past their prime. If it looks more brown than green you can cut it back. Any diseased plants should be cut back and the cuttings discarded, not put in the compost.It’s not necessary to cut back all the perennials.
Leaving plants with seed heads intact is good food for winter birds. The crowns and leaves of the plants also serve as a protective cover for the plants against temperature changes during the winter.I tend to leave most plants intact for the winter and leave fallen leaves in the garden beds. It’s good for protecting the roots from temperature fluctuations as well as providing necessary winter habitat for many beneficial insects and their larva.
Early September is a good time to bring in annuals for the winter or take cuttings. This should be done BEFORE the nights get cooler and your furnace goes on. It’s also best to take cuttings or bring plants in when they are in their prime. They will not do well after they start diminishing.
Bulbs can be planted now for best results as they will have time to set some roots before winter. That being said, you can technically plant them up until the ground freezes. If you have problems with critters digging up your bulbs, put a square of small gauge chicken wire over the planting hole (under the top surface of soil so it isn’t visible) or you can use pea gravel. The bulbs will grow right through the chicken wire/gravel. Don’t add bone meal to the bulb planting hole as it actually draws critters. If you use any fertilizer mix it into the soil so it doesn’t burn the bulbs.
Lawn care: Fall is a good time to reseed or over-seed your lawn. It’s also a good time to apply fertilizer if your lawn needs it. Applying fertilizer when the lawn is brown and dormant is not advised.Natural fertilizers are much better than chemical fertilizers. However, if you mow high, leave the grass clippings on the lawn and lightly spread some compost over the grass. That’s all you need to do.
Master Gardener Fall Classes: The classes will be presented via Zoom and the cost will be $15.00/ class or $40 for all three classes. Mark your calendar and plan to attend any or all of the following: Tuesday, September 15, 6:30 - 8:00 pm Carol Ann Harlos will present Bulbs and Tubers and Corms, Oh, My! Learn what’s new just in time to plant for a spring show.Wednesday, September 23, 6:30 - 8:00 pm Peggy Koppmann will present Fall Propagation. Autumn is a great time for home gardeners to propagate plants. Learn how to take cuttings of shrubs and overwinter them. Phyllis Lobbins will discuss the popular Winter Sowing technique for starting perennials. Gather your milk jugs now.
Saturday, September 26, 6:30 8:00 pm Linda Mayer will present Happy Healthy Houseplants. Houseplants are the fastest growing area of gardening with new and unusual varieties appearing in nursery centers everywhere. Learn how to keep them happy and healthy.
Late summer is when you can assess your successes and failures and make improvements for next year. What to keep, what to get rid of or what to move. A Garden Consultation can help you decide what worked, what didn’t, why these issues occurred, and what you can do about them. Call or e-mail to set up an appointment.
Happy Gardening! Lyn Chimera Lessons from Nature 170 Pine St. E. Aurora, NY 14052 firstname.lastname@example.org 652-2432