In September, the high summer winds down, and gardens and gardeners come alive again. It is time to make the garden ready for the fall and for the dormancy winter will bring, and to take note of things that will make next spring’s job easier.
One thing a gardener can do is take pictures with a digital camera and record pleasing plant combinations- – and not-so-successful ones. One can also check the size and specific locations of the plants in the garden. Notes with the pictures will help when developing next year’s planting plans.
It is time to begin to gather potted “pets” that have been vacationing outdoors into one place. Check for insects and disease, prune back excess foliage and remove the dead leaves and stems; it is important to wash the plants and their pots. Decide how many to keep at home without crowding and find a place for the rest – friends, neighbors, schools, church, senior centers or the compost pile. Do not wait for frost to arrive before moving plants indoors – many tropical house plants sustain damage at 45 degrees.
Make cuttings of plants that have grown too large to fit indoors. To do this, cut off a piece of stem 4 to 6 inches long. So the cutting can concentrate on growing roots, remove all flowers and most of the lower leaves. Place the cutting in water or a potting mix. If it was started in water, the cutting can be potted up when the first tiny roots appear. Long roots are fun to watch grow, but snap off when planted.
September is a good time to divide or move many outdoor perennials. The cooler air temperatures and the still-warm soil encourage strong root systems and stronger plants in spring.
Much of a plant is underground. When removing plants from the soil, make sure the spade goes down under the roots. Lift and gently pull the clump apart. Sometimes soaking the clump in a bucket of water and washing away most of the soil makes the dividing easier. Plants with tightly interwoven or tough roots will need surgery. The knife or spade should be strong, sharp and clean. Plant each piece at the level it was growing before and water well. For best results provide intensive care for a couple of weeks.
Collect seeds of desirable plants. Harvest when seed heads are dry. Put the dry seed in envelopes and on the outside note the year and the name of the plant. Put envelopes in wide-mouth glass jar with a tight top. To keep seeds cool, dark and dry, put them in the fridge. Dry milk in a paper towel in the bottom of the jar will absorb excess moisture.
Preserve today’s beauty by pressing flowers such as Queen Ann’s lace and attractive leaves such as rue for decorating cards. Collect seed pods, grasses, dry oak leaves, rose hips and other materials for winter arrangements.
Finally, September is the best month of the entire year to seed, reseed or sod a lawn.