So, it apparently wasn’t my imagination – we really did have a dry summer. At least, that’s what the National Drought Mitigation Center’s United States Drought Monitor report for Michigan says, and I guess they ought to know! According to these guys, the western part of Washtenaw County is experiencing “moderate drought” conditions. And we’re not alone – much of the lower peninsula is “abnormally dry,” or in “moderate drought” or “severe drought.” The weather prediction for the next two weeks is showing some good chances of rain by next weekend, but I’m not holding my breath – they’ve been saying that all summer, and most of the rain has just skipped right past my house. I’m not putting my hoses and sprinklers away just yet.
September Featured Garden Product: Row Covers
Row Covers – Also known as frost blankets, row covers are a great thing to have around as we transition into fall from summer, but still have things growing in our veggie gardens. In the fall, nights can turn suddenly cold, and an early frost can mean the end of your vegetable plants, unless you’re prepared. Row covers can mean the difference between getting a few more harvests, and pulling your plants before they were done producing.
The row covers we stock at the store can keep your plants as much as 6 to 8 degrees warmer than the air temperature. I like them because they are good at protecting my plants, but are also lightweight enough that I don’t have to worry about crushing the plants, as heavier things such as sheets can. The way they work is to capture the ground heat and keep it close to the plants. To get the best effect, cover plants before the evening has cooled down too much. It also helps to secure the covers to the ground so that the wind doesn’t blow them off – I keep some small rocks handy for this purpose. Plan to cover up plants if the overnight temperature is predicted to get below 36 degrees, just to be safe – cold air falls, so the temperature where your plants are will be a little lower than those predictions.
In this month’s issue of Let’s Get Gardening
Subscribe to our monthly newsletter for seasonal gardening advice and recommendations for your garden, yard, and bird feeding. In this month’s issue:
Even though summer is winding down, there is still a lot to do in our yards and gardens this month:
In the veggie garden:
- Keep watering your veggie garden. As long as you have plants producing, you need to make sure they are getting sufficient water – about an inch a week.
- Pull any plants that have finished producing and compost them. In their place, plant baby leaf lettuces, radishes, or spinach.
- Do not compost tomato plants or any other plants showing signs of disease, as composting is not guaranteed to kill many garden diseases. Toss them in the trash.
- If your tomato plants are still putting out new flowers, pinch them off by mid-month. Those flowers won’t mature into ripe tomatoes before we get our first frosts, and removing them helps your plants put all their energy into maturing the fruit that’s already there.
- Keep harvesting beans, summer squash, and cucumbers so that they will keep producing while we still have warm days. Winter squash should be ready to harvest this month as well.
- Herbs should be producing really well now – my parsley and basil are huge! If you can’t use all the herbs your garden is producing right away, you can easily preserve or dry them to use all winter long.
- Continue to spray your tomatoes, peppers, squash, and cucumbers with fungicide. The heavy morning dew and warm days we are getting now perfect conditions for some of the diseases that plague vegetable gardens.
In the flower garden:
- If your annual flowers are starting to fade, pull them and replace them with mums, asters, or pansies for great fall color. We will have all of these in the store, beginning next week.
- Tender summer-blooming bulbs, such as begonias, dahlias, and gladiolas should be dug up after their foliage has died back.
- Don’t be in too much of a hurry to plant spring-blooming bulbs, such as daffodils, tulips, alliums, and crocus. The ideal time to plant them is after we’ve had a few light frosts, but before the ground is frozen. Bulbs will start arriving in the store in the next couple of weeks, depending on temperatures.
- Divide perennials this month. Plants, like my catmint, that have outgrown their space or are starting to fade in the center are prime candidates for digging up and moving or dividing.
- September is also a great time to plant new perennials. Many garden centers have sales at this time of year, so take advantage of them, but do so early so that the plants have time to get their roots established before cold weather sets in.
Trees & Shrubs:
- Plant trees and shrubs now. As with perennial flowers, garden centers tend to put trees and shrubs on sale now, and you can get some great deals.
- Whatever you plant, be sure to water it thoroughly from the time you plant up until the ground freezes.
- Are you seeing webs of worms or caterpillars on your trees right now? These nasty little creatures are fall webworms. I came back from vacation last week to find a whole bunch of them on my young red bud tree,and I wasn’t happy!
- September is the time to overseed bare patches in your lawn.
- Fertilize your lawn this month to encourage good root growth before winter.
- Consider de-thatching your lawn. This is something that most people don’t do, and maybe should, if they want a really good looking lawn.
- Continue to mow, but raise the deck on your mower to a height of about 3.5 to 4 inches. Any shorter and your lawn won’t have the insulation it needs against the cold this winter.
- Rake up the leaves that fall and use them as mulch or add them to your compost pile.
- Start feeding the birds again, if you stopped for the summer.
- Clean out bird houses that were used for nesting this summer. Some of your birds will use them for keeping warm at night during the winter.
- Keep birdbaths full – the birds are suffering from the lack of water as much as our plants are!
- Continue to fill your hummingbird feeders. You can help these flying jewels make their long journey to their winter homes in Central America by providing them with food now, when they are working to add body mass that they will turn into energy for all that flying.
More info on all of these tips can be found in our monthly newsletter: Read the September 2018 issue of Let’s Get Gardening
Store News & Specials
- Come in this fall for a great selection of spring-blooming bulbs, including tulips, daffodils, crocus, hyacinths, and more. We’ll start getting them in mid-month, with more coming in early October.
We’ll also have fall-planting garlic coming in this month.
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Come in often to see all the great new stuff and find just the right piece for your garden!