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It's true Fall is for Planting! The soil is still warm, providing faster root growth and giving plants a head start on next year's growth. By next summer, they will have a larger, more established root system than spring plantings means better drought tolerance and better flowering the first year. Also, the shorter days and mild temperatures in fall mean lower stress on new plants Last, but not least, the inevitable rains help keep those new plants watered-in, meaning less work for you (maybe a few days left to enjoy the hammock).
Exception: Plants that are frost tender, or borderline hardy for your area are best planted in the spring, unless they are being put in a well-protected area.
Some of your summer annuals may be a bit tired looking or overgrown. In some cases a trim and a bit of water-soluble fertilizer will get you a few more weeks of bloom. Others should probably be discarded in favor of some new fall color. This means those annuals and short-lived perennials that look great now through autumn and often times into winter. Pansies, kale, dusty miller, mums, asters, and black-eyed-susans are all examples of this. There are plenty more flowers to enjoy; the growing season isn’t over yet!
As for perennials, the late-season flowers are in full swing and full stock on our shelves; asters, many daisy style plants, yarrow, and salvias are blooming nicely. The beginning to middle of autumn is one of the best times for planting assuming temperatures have cooled since summer. The majority of cold hardy perennials thrive with fall planting since their root systems can grow all winter and emerge in the spring ready to grow.
If you have poorly drained soil you may want to wait until spring to plant perennials that require good drainage such as penstemon and lavender. Once the weather has cooled down, it is also a good time for dividing established perennials, though October is the more common month for that.
Bulbs! It is finally that time again! Tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, alliums, crocus and many others are available for purchase starting in September. While refreshing those flowers beds and containers with some pansies or other fall color, add some spring flowering bulbs in there as an investment in next year’s show.
Some bulbs can also be grown in pots, often indoors, during the late autumn and winter. This is generally called forcing. The most common bulbs for this are paperwhites (Narcissus ‘Zeva’) and amaryllis. While they can be started as early as September, most people prefer to wait until October for amaryllis or November for paperwhites to try to match the bloom period to the holiday season. Other people start a few more paperwhites every week to extend the season of enjoyment.
September is a good time for starting a fresh round of cool-season and overwintering crops. This includes lettuce, spinach, and other greens, as well as some cole crops such as broccoli and cauliflower. Short season root crops such as radishes can be grown now to harvest before winter, and overwintering roots such as garlic and onions can be planted.
Just as importantly, its harvest time for those warm season crops! Here are some tips on harvesting different groups of vegetables:
September is the month for renovating that summer-weary lawn. First, dethatch if you have not done so in the last year. This is done by thoroughly raking out the dead matter underneath the growing grass blades. Then, assess how full your lawn really is and make appropriate plans to reseed, overseed (applying seed to an existing but patchy lawn), or install sod.
If your lawn is really patchy or almost nonexistent reseeding is best. Turn the soil and mix in some compost. Level it out and add seed, fertilizer, and lime. Cover the seed with a very thin layer of peat moss or fine compost (no big woody chunks). Keep moist and keep the weeds away; you should have a great lawn before winter.
If you are overseeding, then skip the bit about turning the soil, but a thin layer of compost on top is beneficial before laying the seed, fertilizer, and lime. If installing sod, turn and amend the soil beforehand, and fertilize and lime after installation. Link to our pdf, Installing a Seed Lawn, to see these steps in detail.
This marks the beginning of the autumn planting season. While it is possible to plant trees and shrubs in the heat of summer, it is often easier on the plant if you wait until the temperatures cool somewhat in September or October. Also, if you have clay soil it is often easier to dig in after the first significant shower of the autumn.
We always stock up on conifers this time of year. Many of these are quite unusual and this is the only time of year that we get some of them. Be sure to stop by frequently to see what we have in new arrivals.
Caterpillar damage is at its height in autumn. While many of the less damaging leaf eaters can be ignored because the leaves are going to fall off soon, tent caterpillars can do extensive damage if ignored. A large population can kill major braches of mature trees. Common targets include birch, ash, and maple. Insecticidal sprays can keep the population low.
Most trees and shrubs don’t want to be fertilized this time of year. The only exception might be a little organic, slow-release food for newly planted evergreens, or those plants that have not been fed in a long time.
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