September in the Garden

September in the garden is a busy continuation of August in the garden. Of course, there is work to be done!

Its September and fall has arrived! And, as usual, we are all asking ourselves “where has the summer gone?”   Well, it has gone past us at breakneck speed and disappeared all too soon. But life goes on, the kids are back in school and if September 2021 is a warm month there is still time for more gardening and coffee on the patio. 

September in the garden is a busy continuation of August in the garden.  Of course, there is work to be done.  Veggies and fruit to harvest, can and freeze, composting, cleaning, mulching, enjoying the fall blooming perennials and cutting back the straggly spring bloomers.  Your garden really does need a hand getting ready for the winter months ahead.

Harvest your potatoes.  Wait until the foliage turns yellow/brown, then cut it off at ground level.  Leave the plot alone for up to two weeks if possible. This allows the skin on the potatoes to thicken; the best- case scenario for storage conditions.  Carefully lift the potatoes with a spade or garden fork, shake the soil off and let them dry in the air for a couple of days under a tarp or burlap to avoid sun damage.  Bag into mesh or burlap sacks and store in the dark in a cool area (optimum 4-7 degrees C).  Do not let them freeze. 

Onions will also need to be dug up when their foliage yellows and bends over.  Shake off excess soil.  The ideal next step is to leave them on the ground (weather permitting) for a couple of days to “cure”.  The outer layer will toughen up and not be damaged by rot as easily.  If rain is in the forecast, let them “cure” in a garden shed or garage.  Cut off the stems, leaving 1 inch of stem attached to the onion.  Snip off the roots.  Store in a dark, well ventilated, warm area such as a basement or garage. 

Other vegetables to be harvested include carrots, squash, beets, and parsnips.

Gather all the remaining green tomatoes before the first frost.  I always ripen mine in a dark cupboard – any other ideas?  The first frost in Saskatoon is usually sometime between September 11 and 20.  If you garden, I don’t need to tell you to keep an eye on the weather!

As you harvest and clean up the vegetable garden, follow up with a layer of compost that you can till into the soil or leave in place on top.  It is up to you.

Keep adding to and turning the compost pile.   Do not add diseased or insect infested plant material to the compost pile.   Occasionally sprinkle the layers with water and a handful of an all-purpose fertilizer.  The microbes that break up the composted materials need the nitrogen in the fertilizer to do their job.  Mulch fallen tree and shrub leaves with your lawn mower and add those to the compost pile.

Clean out the garden shed. 

Take advantage of the garden centre fall sales.  Tools, soil, and soil amendments can all be purchased at reduced prices and stored over the winter.    

Toward the end of September plant fall bulbs such as tulips, crocus, and daffodils. Do not forget the bulb dust and bone meal.  Before planting, shake and bake your fall bulbs with the bulb dust to ward off any future fungal diseases. The bone meal should not directly touch the bulbs.  Mix it into the earth below the bulbs when planting.   Mark the location of each group of bulbs with a stake or create a map of planting locations.  It’s a long winter and often the memory wanders away…

Dig up and store dahlias, tuberous begonias, and gladioli.  Place in dry vermiculite or sawdust and store in a dark, cool, and dry location in your home.

If you are moving houseplants inside, isolate them in the shade and spray them down outside with water and insecticidal soap.  Leave the soap on for a couple of hours and then rinse the plants off again before taking them into the house.  Even in the house, I would isolate them in a separate room for a week or so to see if they are relatively insect free.  Insecticidal soap is safe for people and pets. 

You may want some annuals to self-seed.  Stop deadheading in September and let the seed pods form.  Some prolific self-seeders are snapdragons, sunflowers, poppies, zinnia, sweet pea and larkspur. 

Leave ornamental grass seed heads and sunflowers on the plants as feed for the birds going into winter.

Seed or sod a new lawn. September temperatures are cooler, and the earth is warm.   If laying sod, install it within a day of delivery and do not let it dry out until you are sure it has rooted.  Water in the morning.  You also do not need to fertilize or mow the new lawn until next spring.    

A newly seeded lawn needs to be kept moist until and after germination.  Soil preparation is important as it is advisable to use a good quality top- soil as the base.  Rake and level the soil, leaving some shallow ridges for the seed to grab once it germinates.  Do not fertilize your new lawn until next spring after the second or third mowing. 

For established lawns, September is a good time to apply fall lawn fertilizer.  C-I-L Fall Lawn Food (12-0-18) is an excellent quality lawn food enriched with potash.  It will improve resistance to cold winter conditions, drought, and disease. 

Again, take advantage of those garden centre fall sales and plant perennials, trees, and shrubs. The earth is still warm, and roots will take hold quickly.  Do not expect any top growth as the most important thing right now is to get those roots going. 

Do keep watering shrubs and trees right up to the first hard frost.  Do not fertilize or prune your trees and shrubs in September.

Evergreens will drop some of their inner needles in the fall.  This is entirely normal.  If the year has been dry, they may drop more needles than usual.

Purchase some new houseplants before the snow flies!  Wash down all new plants with warm water and isolate them in a separate room for a week or two.  On a warm September day, you can still repot them outside before the cold temps hit.  Do not fertilize your newly repotted plants.  Pre-mixed tropical soils have about three months’ worth of fertilizer in the soil mix already. 

Now is also the time to top up any established houseplants that need some new soil.  Just lay it on top of the existing soil in the pot. Future watering will take the nutrients down to the root system. 

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