Jessica Damiano is a master gardener and journalist with more than 25 years experience in radio, television, print
September is a funny month: We could be plagued by heat waves, have cool, crisp weather, or get a cold snap followed by an Indian summer. Despite what direction the wind blows, summer flowers will fade, vegetables will be harvested and the garden will need tending. Enjoy whatever the month brings, and keep on track with these chores.
1. Many weeds still haven't gone to seed. Pull them up now to avoid having to deal with their offspring later.
2. Test your soil and add lime, if necessary, to correct the pH. It'll work its way deeper into the soil over the winter.
3. It's Labor Day! Fertilize established lawns with a slow-release product. Don't repeat until next spring.
4. If the lawn needs work, this is the best time to reseed, renovate or install sod.
5. Inspect dwarf Alberta spruce and other evergreens for spider mites, and if you find any, rinse them off with a hose.
6. Clear out spent vegetable beds and sow lettuce and spinach seeds in their places. There's still time for a fall harvest.
7. Start planting perennials now to give them enough time to become established before winter.
8. If you're canning tomatoes, use only pristine fruits. Any blemished ones should be eaten fresh.
9. If tomato plants are still producing blossoms, remove them so the plant can focus energy on ripening green fruit before frost hits.
10. Take cuttings of coleus and begonias and root them indoors in potting mix until spring.
11. Slugs are laying eggs now; find and destroy them. (Look for masses of pearl-sized, translucent, cream-colored eggs, especially under stones.)
12. Stop deadheading roses if you want hips to form; they're great for tea and jam (but only if not chemically treated).
13. The garden still needs about an inch of water per week, so if it's not raining, continue to supplement.
14. Bring in tender pond plants and place by a sunny window until spring. Keep moist.
15. Time to harvest grapes!
16. Rosemary, chives and parsley aren't annuals; pot them up and they'll live nicely indoors by a sunny window all winter long.
17. If shrubs are encroaching on walkways or spilling out of their beds, dig up and divide them now. It's also a good time to plant new ones.
18. Clear out beds where mildew or black spot were noted, rake well and discard all leaves and debris in sealed trash bags.
19. Leave asparagus ferns be until hard frost.
20. Bring in the last of the basil, parsley and mint and freeze or dry for use all winter.
21. Dig up elephant ears, gladiolus corms and cannas, and store for winter. Get instructions at newsday.com/home.
22. It's fall! Divide overgrown perennials like phlox, coneflowers, Dutch iris, black-eyed susans and daylilies.
23. When pumpkins turn a rich orange, it's time to harvest. Cutting with several inches of stem attached will keep them fresher longer.
24. When night frosts are predicted, bring in the last of the tomatoes.
25. When their tops flop over, harvest onions, then cure in the sun for 3-5 days.
26. If you'd like to convert a piece of lawn into a bed next spring, cover the area with thick layers of corrugated cardboard topped with mulch. In spring, the grass will come right out.
27. Start planting trees when leaves in the neighborhood begin to change color.
28. Clear out faded annuals, but let snapdragons, geraniums and petunias bloom through fall.
29. As evenings get cooler, insects will be making their way indoors. Consider pesticides a last resort; instead, just vacuum them up and discard the bag.
30. Plant garlic cloves upright, 2 inches deep, 6 inches apart, with 12 inches between rows. They'll sprout in fall and be ready next July.