My apologies for the lateness of this month’s newsletter – I was squeezing the last bits of summer out of the season for a few days on Lake Michigan with friends, and just couldn’t pull myself away from the beautiful sunsets to sit down at my computer! I am just not quite ready for the season to come to an end – is anyone?!
In this month’s issue of Let’s Get Gardening
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In this month’s issue:
This was an interesting year for gardening: it was rainy and cold well into the spring, then suddenly stopped raining and got hot, and then cooled off a little, and only gave us the illusion that it was raining enough for our gardens, when it really wasn’t. I had a hard time keeping up with the forecasts, and couldn’t quite figure out whether or not I should water my gardens. It seemed like every time I believed the forecast (when they said it was going to rain), and didn’t water, we didn’t get rain. When I didn’t believe the forecast, and decided to water just in case, it rained. I think Mother Nature just wanted to let me know who was in charge – and it wasn’t me!
In spite of the challenges of the summer, September is both a great time and a hard time to be a gardener. There is so much that you can be doing in your yard and gardens at this time of year that it can be hard to decide where to start.
In the Veggie Garden:
- Plant leaf lettuces and radishes early in the month – there should still be plenty of time for those to produce yet this season, as many will come to maturity in under a month.
- Kale and some spinach can also still be planted, as they are a little more hardy and can stand a little more of the cold temperatures that will likely hit before these plants are done producing.
- Pinch off flowers on tomato plants by mid-month, at the latest. Those flowers aren’t going to have enough time to reach maturity before cold weather sets in, and removing them will help the plants put all their energy into ripening the fruits that are already getting going.
- Continue harvesting things like peppers, beans, cucumbers, corn, and summer squashes until they are all done producing. Winter squashes may be ready for harvesting by the end of the month – they won’t do well once we start getting hard frosts, but don’t pick them before they are truly ready.
- Many herbs are also still going strong in September. My parsley is huge, and I have four of the biggest basil plants I have ever seen. I also still have some cilantro and dill, as well as thyme in my garden. With the exception of the basil, freezing is my favorite way of preserving herbs for use all winter, because it’s really easy to do.
- Basil doesn’t freeze well, so drying it (or making pesto) is the best way to have that for later use. If you have basil in your garden, keep an eye on the nighttime temperatures now. Basil doesn’t like temps below 50° F (which we are expecting as early as tomorrow night!) – it gets ugly black spots – so either plan to harvest it all before it starts getting too cold, or cover it on nights when we’re expecting lower temps to prolong your harvest.
Flower Gardens, Trees & Shrubs, Lawn:
- If you have been fertilizing your perennials, shrubs and trees this summer, stop now. Fertilizing encourages new growth, and new growth now will likely not have enough time to harden before it gets cold.
- This month is a great time for planting all kinds of things, besides the vegetables we’ve already talked about. Perennials, shrubs, and trees planted in the fall can get their roots established while the soil is still warm.
- It’s also a good time for dividing and transplanting lots of plants. I have a number of perennials in need of dividing, so am actually planning to take some time off later this month to do all of that. You can generally tell if it’s time to divide a plant by how it looks. My bee balm is looking a bit hollow at the center and is also outgrowing its allotted space in the bed – both sure signs that it’s time to divide.
- If you have tender summer bulbs, such as dahlias and calla lilies, wait until the foliage is dried up to dig them up for winter storage – but don’t wait until the ground is frozen. Depending on the weather, this task should be done late this month or early next.
- Spring bulbs, including crocus, daffodils and tulips, get planted in the fall because they need to go through a chilling period in order to bloom in the spring. Plant them after we have had a few frosts, but before the ground is frozen. You want the soil to still be warm enough to encourage root growth, but you don’t want the air to be so warm that it encourages foliage growth. We’ll start getting our spring bulbs in at the store in mid-September. Be sure to get your favorites early so you don’t miss out.
- Bring house plants back in that you put outside now, but spray with pesticide before you do, so as not to bring unwanted guests in with them.
- Many trees have leaves that are already turning yellow or brown and falling. This isn’t a sign of an early winter, but more likely a sign of stress suffered at some point. The extreme cold we had last winter could have caused some of that stress, especially in trees ones that might not normally grow in our climate, or are at the farthest north of their range. The intense rain we had this spring was also somewhat stressing for trees – too much water all at once makes it difficult for trees to efficiently get nutrients out of the soil.
- One thing you can do to help your trees make it through this winter and maybe start to rejuvenate next spring is to make sure that they get enough water this fall. If we don’t get adequate rainfall, water any new or young trees, and any that have been showing signs of stress, all the way up until the ground freezes.
- Whenever the leaves fall in your yard, be sure to rake them up to avoid problems in your lawn next year. You can shred them and compost them, or save them to use as an extra layer of protection in the form of mulch for your planting beds once the ground has frozen.
- With some of the storms we had this summer, many of us had damage to trees. It’s a good idea to prune off dead or damaged branches from trees as soon as possible, but limit your pruning at this time of year to only those branches with damage, as other pruning now can encourage new growth that will be susceptible to harm when the cold weather sets in.
- There are all kinds of things that go into deciding if September is the right time to fertilize your lawn, including how you mow, whether you irrigate, and whether you bag the clippings or leave them on the lawn.
- September is for the birds, in many ways! Some of our early migrators are already heading south, while others are just starting to think about it. You can help them on their way by putting out feeders (if you haven’t been feeding them all summer), and keeping them filled.
- That goes for hummingbirds, too. Keeping your nectar feeders clean and filled into October could help the late travelers make their winter homes. You might also be rewarded with a sighting of an unusual hummer. Some of the hummingbirds that don’t breed here in Michigan travel through on their way to and from their breeding grounds much farther north.
- Providing a source of water for those weary feathered travelers is also a great idea. Flying hundreds of miles is thirsty work!
Decorate this fall with our locally grown mums, asters, pansies, pumpkins, and gourds!
Plant bulbs this fall for a beautiful spring!
Check out our great selection of tulips, daffodils, crocus, hyacinths, and more – all arriving soon!
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