September in the Garden

September is the month we normally look forward to the most.  It usually brings cooler days and that is much easier on plant, people, and pets than the hot months.  It may take a few weeks before we actually start to see some difference, but you can be sure that relief is on the way!

Your garden needs attention 12 months out of the year.  While most of the summer is spent watering and weeding, September can provide an excellent time to get some cleanup work and some planting done.

To everything, there is a season, and here are a few things it’s time to do this September Fall Season!

A Time To Clean Up

Now is the perfect time to clean up any plants that didn’t make it through the summer heat.  Remove dead or dying annuals.

A Time To Prune

Shrubs can be lightly pruned – don’t go crazy and chop the plants all the way down, but a light pruning will benefit them to get them tidy for the months ahead.

Sun-loving hydrangeas (not traditional shade plants).  These if pruned in early September may put on some new growth but they probably won’t have any more blooms.  You can prune them to tidy them up and remove spent flowers.  They will loose leaves in a few months anyway.

Light prune on some perennials like Lantana and Buddleia.  A snip here and there won’t hurt and can tidy them up.

Light prune Herbs to get them into shape, but as with other perennials, stay on the light side.

A Time to NOT  Prune

  • Traditional hydrangeas will not put on any new growth.   I know they look a mess after the heat, but try to resist the urge to prune because if you do, you will be sacrificing flowers for next year as they will bloom on grow from this season.  With cool weather, they will emerge in the spring and produce bountiful blooms for you next summer.
  • Blueberry and Blackberry bushes need to be left alone for the same reason as you don’t want to prune hydrangeas.  Most berries like blueberries and blackberries will have blooms next year on the grow that’s there this year.  Like hydrangeas, resist the urge to prune.
  • Camellia are a -no-no to prune at this time.   Their blooms are just around the corner and you will be cutting off flower buds that will produce blooms in the coming months.

A Time To Fertilize – Use Organics

You can and want to fertilize most of your plants in September.  We recommend using one of the organic fertilizers from Espoma or Milorganite.  These are nonburning and won’t encourage a lot of growth.  Be careful with traditional granular fertilizers like 10-10-10 because they can encourage growth, which might not be wise if we have an early freeze.  If you do fertilize with it, get it on before the end of the month and use a lighter application.

A Time To Harvest Seeds!

Most of your perennial and some annual plants will start to go to seed in September.  Now is the perfect time to collect your seeds for next year.  We suggest getting some brown paper lunch bags, cutting off the spent flowers, and drop them in the bag.  Label it, keep it somewhere in your house away from heat or cold.  Next spring, take them out and sow them in your garden!   This is one of our favorite things to do with a whole host of plants!   Hibiscus, Zinnia, Cosmos, Coneflower, Rudbeckia, Chaste, and many other plants are so easy to grow from seeds you collect now!

A Time To Plant Plant Plant!

The fall is actually a much better time to plant than spring and many nurseries and growers prefer fall to spring.  Planting in the fall has the following benefits:

  • Lower water requirements on plants which makes them so happy.
  • The roots of most plants continue to grow all winter in our mild climate.  This will make your plants acclimated and much better prepared to handle next summer’s heat than planting in spring.
  • Less weed competition in the fall will mean healthier plants.

September is ideal for planting perennials that will make beautiful plants for next year that are already established.  This means less trouble for you and more food for the bees and our valuable pollinators!

A Time To Mulch

September is one of the best times to get those plants mulched.  We can’t stress enough the importance of natural mulch – by that we mean Bark, Leaves, or Straw.  We don’t recommend ever using rocks as mulch unless you’re making a rock or succulent garden.  Same thing with rubber mulch.  It has no place around your regular plants and can cause more harm than good.

Mulching your plants can help with water loss,  weed suppression, and can keep them warm in the cold months to come. Mulch put around your Camellias in September in sufficient quantity can actually help with petal blight when it appears in January or February.

Mulch also has a great benefit to the roots of plants because when it breaks down, it adds valuable nutrients back to the soil which your plant will benefit from greatly.

A Time To Enjoy Your Garden

Most importantly, September needs to be a time that you can get out and enjoy your garden.  Some beauties are just about to take center stage – Camellia sasanqua, the fabulous fall-blooming Camellia sinensis Tea Plants, Cassia, and the gorgeous perennial Asters are just waiting to take center stage and the bees are ready to enjoy their bountiful pollen!

Take some time to get outdoors, and enjoy the sights and sounds of the fall as it creeps in.  It’s just about time to get that fire lit so enjoy it!