by Cecilia Rice
It is already September and that means we are on the path to fall which usually brings with it some cooling temperatures and definitely shorter days. Summer frequently doesn’t give up easily and we usually have some hot days to cope with. There are definitely things to be done in the garden. Watering and keeping weeds at bay seems to be ever present by this time of the year, but will begin to slack off. A winter vegetable garden means it is time to take out the plants that have been producing all summer. I know that is a tough thing to make yourself do since many plants are still producing. Unless there is another garden plot to be used, clearing the present spot is just about the only choice. Start with the plants that are obviously showing signs of slowing production and go from there – tomatoes are usually what we have to give up last. Where ever the new winter garden is to go, the soil needs to be worked up and readied. The winter veggies will begin to be available soon, and are already available in many places. They will do better if they are planted in cooler weather than we have been experiencing this summer. We get requests for winter vegetables in the heat of August, but we usually wait until the second week of September to offer them.
September is an important month for fertilizing trees and shrubs. They store nutrients within the trunks and limbs to carry them through the winter, and help them leaf out, bloom and set fruit in the coming spring season. This has to be done while there are still healthy green and working leaves on them. There is no specific time for the leaves to start showing the fall color change, but we all know it is in fall. Keep an eye on them and don’t miss the opportunity to get the fertilizing done. It will benefit your shrubs and trees. As usual, there are exceptions – any plant that has already set buds for spring bloom, such as rhododendrons and camellias should not be fertilized now, do them soon after they finish their bloom cycle. The reason being that they will likely respond to the fertilizer and start putting on new growth which can push the buds off the plant. Just wait until they have finished their bloom cycle to fertilize them. That is when they normally start putting on new growth and the fertilizer is very beneficial for that process.
Since September ushers in fall, it is a month that allows us to do things that would have been difficult in the heat of the summer. Of course, I am assuming that we will have fairly normal fall weather. Number one, you can plant a lawn. As the temperatures trend down and we no longer have the scorching heat we had earlier, it is much easier to keep the newly emerging grass damp enough so that it doesn’t perish. Speaking of lawns, this is the proper time to apply fertilizer with pre-emergent to kill and prevent crabgrass. Number two, ground covers from flats can also be planted and established since it is so much easier to keep the area damp allowing roots and runners find their way and multiply, Number three, It is a good time to dig up some perennials and divide them to enlarge a bed, create a new bed, or share them with other gardeners. This is routine for many garden clubs at this time of the year. Number four, this is the time to start thinking about any trees or large shrubs that you might want to plant this fall. They will slowly develop roots during the winter giving them an advantage over the same thing planted next spring. I know that choosing a tree going dormant is not as intriguing as picking out a tree leafing out with fresh foliage in the lovely spring weather. But, the fall planted tree will leaf out next spring in your yard. October is the best month for tree planting, so start thinking about the trees you would consider. Pick out your tree or plant, take it home in the container, put it in a place that can’t be missed and water it well daily, and plant it in the cooling weather of October when transplant shock is not as likely.
The soil is still warm in September, so it is an ideal time to plant winter annuals if you are interested in some colorful plants in the yard throughout the winter. Plant them soon into the still warm soil as opposed to the cold soil which can stunt them – they will grow, but probably not flourish until warmer spring weather comes. Enjoy the color all winter by starting them soon. Consider pansies, violas, primroses, snapdragons, calendulas, cyclamen and dianthus. Bulbs will be available in many places soon. Plant now for spring bloom. If you have a gopher problem, choose daffodils and narcissus, they will not bother them except to sometimes move them around a bit. Fall is also the time to plant wildflower seeds. When shopping for them check the container carefully. Pure wildflower seed is a bit expensive and often it looks as if it is a bargain until you check the contents of the package and find a large percentage is grass seed. Because many of the wildflower seeds are very small it is a good idea to mix them with some sand or something else to give them bulk so that they can be spread more evenly over a larger area.
Using pre-emergent now will help to reduce the growth of winter weeds, keeping in mind that it will keep any good seeds you may have planted from sprouting as well, so be careful with it. Remember that all those leaves that will be falling soon make great compost. If you have a compost pile add them. If you don’t, you might want to find space to start one – it is great to have it always available, especially in the summer. Enjoy the coming seasonal changes.
Cecilia Rice is a partner with her son Jeff at Bald Mountain Nursery on Bald Mountain Road in Browns Valley. We are “The unexpected nursery on a little country road” Tel (530) 743-4856 www.baldmountainnursery.com