Although September can feel like the beginning of the end to most gardeners, it actually can be the busiest month. We need to plant and transplant to give roots enough time to settle in before frost hits, and weed and water to cut down on next spring’s cleanup work and help trees and shrubs make it through winter.
It’s also time for harvesting and canning, clearing and even sowing. Keep at it, and before you know it, fruits, vegetables and annuals will give way to chrysanthemums, autumn crocuses and a kaleidoscope of colors on neighborhood trees and shrubs — because it’s not the end at all, just time to shift focus. Here are chores and tips to keep you on track every day of the month.
1. Sow lettuce, arugula, mustard greens, collards, kale, spinach and Asian greens to harvest before winter.
2. If you need to reseed or renovate the lawn, do it now.
3. Order spring bulbs for planting next month.
4. Plant separated, unpeeled garlic cloves — pointy ends up, 2 inches deep, 3 to 6 inches apart in full sun — now for next year’s harvest.
5. It’s Labor Day, and that means two things: Frankfurters and fertilizer. Apply a slow-release product to lawns for the last time this year, and enjoy the BBQ.
6. Pull weeds now — by their roots — before seeds drop.
7. As a rule, leave peonies be. But if you must divide or move them, now is the time.
8. Inspect evergreens, especially dwarf Alberta spruce, for spider mites. If found, blast with a strong stream from the hose. Repeat weekly all month.
9. Plant perennials now to ensure they become established before frost hits.
10. If tomato plants are still producing blossoms, remove them to hasten ripening of green fruit.
11. Don’t panic: It’s normal for the innermost needles of evergreen trees to turn brown and fall off.
12. Divide daylilies and transplant into garden gaps.
13. Do not prune spring-flowering shrubs. Removing buds now will mean fewer blooms next year.
14. Can tomatoes, but only those that are pristine; eat the blemished ones right away.
15. If you haven’t yet, move vacationing houseplants into shade for a week before rinsing off insects and bringing indoors.
16. Test your soil and add lime, if necessary, to correct the pH. It’ll work its way down into soil by next spring.
17. Harvest grapes.
18. Stop deadheading roses if you want hips to form; they’re great for tea and jam (but only if chemically untreated).
19. Plant witch hazel, red-twig dogwood, deciduous holly and beautyberry for winter interest.
20. Plant ferns in shady garden beds and borders.
21. Divide lily of the valley, perennial phlox and other spring-blooming perennials.
22. Celebrate the start of autumn by making vegetable soup with the last of summer’s bounty.
23. Continue to water trees and shrubs, especially newly planted ones, until hard frost.
24. Dig up small rosemary plants and place indoors near a sunny window.
25. When pumpkins turn a rich orange, it’s time to harvest. Cutting with several inches of stem attached will keep them fresher longer.
26. When their tops flop over, dig up onions, cure in the sun three to five days, then store indoors in a cool, dry spot.
27. When outdoor insects like crickets seek warmth inside, vacuum them up and discard the bag. Resort to chemicals only for real infestations.
28. Clear out beds where mildew or black spot were noted, rake well and discard all leaves and debris in the trash.
29. Harvest the last of the basil, parsley and mint, and freeze or dry for use all winter.
30. Dig up elephant ears, gladiolus corms and cannas, and store for winter. Get instructions at newsday.com/gardening101