September is a month to prepare the garden for colder weather. This includes mulching to help maintain consistent moisture, as well as applying liquid fertilizer.
Sow seeds of broccoli, chard, and late cabbage. Also plant bare-root berries and citrus. Prune trees and shrubs, but limit pruning to removing winter-damaged, crossing or rubbing branches and saving blossom buds.
Plant Spring Flowering Bulbs
A burst of spring color is a welcome sight after a long, cold winter. Plant your favorite flowering bulbs in September, including tulips, daffodils, and crocus.
Many gardeners like to plant bulbs in clumps or drifts, which gives the garden a more natural look. To do this, simply dig holes and drop the bulbs in. The general rule is to plant them two or three times deeper than they are tall.
It’s also a good month to plant garlic, which will be ready to harvest in a few months. You can also start a fall vegetable garden this month by planting seeds for lettuce, collard greens, kale, and other cool-season crops. You can also encourage annuals to self-seed by stopping deadheading and letting them go to seed.
The garlic plant is easy to grow in the fall and a bountiful harvest is worth the effort. Garlic needs full sun and fertile, well-drained soils. Incorporate a generous amount of organic matter and a complete fertilizer before planting. Plant cloves root side down and pointy end up, 2-3 inches deep and spaced 6-10 inches apart in rows. Mulch the beds after planting to conserve moisture and reduce weeds.
Save some of the largest cloves for replanting next year. Old timers say that garlic “learns” from year to year, adapting to local conditions and improving with age. It has a wide variety of culinary uses and it also makes an excellent natural insect repellent and can be rubbed on bug bites to relieve the itching.
September is a great month to plant spinach seeds for your fall garden. This cool-season vegetable loves the weather of autumn and will provide you with a generous harvest in the spring.
It is also a good time to sow a crop of kale and other leafy greens directly in the garden or with cloche protection. This will ensure harvests throughout the fall and winter.
Keep a sharp eye out for pests such as flea beetles, aphids and leafhoppers. You may also encounter diseases such as downy mildew and slugs. Providing adequate spacing at planting time, choosing resistant varieties and proactively monitoring your plants will help prevent these problems. Using shade cloth can also reduce mildew and slug damage. A light application of a nitrogen-rich fertilizer is a good idea as well.
Harvest Winter Squash & Pumpkins
As the season begins to wind down, it’s time to harvest winter squash and pumpkins. This includes Pepo “winter” squash species (such as acorn, dumplings, and spaghetti squash) as well as pumpkin varieties such as Butternut and Hubbard.
It’s best to harvest ripe winter squash before a frost as the skins become delicate with cold weather and will quickly degrade and spoil in storage. In some cases, a light frost may be beneficial as it can help the squash convert starches to sugars more efficiently, allowing them to keep longer.
As the garden winds down, make a note of your successes and failures in this year’s gardens. This will be helpful in planning your next garden. This month also brings the opportunity to divide herbaceous perennials that are overcrowded or need to be thinned.
Once the vegetable garden is in full harvest, it’s time to start preparing the lawn for cooler weather. Pull up any unripe vegetables, and pin down any female flowers or immature fruits on pumpkins, squash, tomatoes, or eggplants. This will force the plants to direct all of their energy to ripening the fruit that is already there.
When it comes to grapes, the most important factor is flavor. Taste the grapes to see if they are sweet enough for your liking. If you are planning on using the grapes to make jelly or juice, then wait for them to become three to four days more ripe in order to have a higher sugar content.
It’s also a good idea to stop deadheading annuals like poppies, zinnias, and sunflowers, as these will go to seed and provide food for birds over the winter.