It’s still fairly hot and muggy in my area of Texas (USDA hardiness zones 7 and 8), but September is a pivotal month in the garden. It’s the gateway month between summer and fall gardening, moving us into cooler-weather fare. So if you can bear the heat, hang in there and get outside. Next year’s garden will thank you for the work you do right now.
Fertilize the lawn. Fall is the best time to fertilize your lawn. Use a lawn fertilizer with a ratio of 3:2:1 or 4:2:1 of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium at a rate of 1 pound per 1,000 square feet of grass.
Always follow the directions on the package and avoid overfertilizing, which will only damage your lawn. Resist the urge to use “winterizing” fertilizers until late October or early November. Water well after applying fertilizers.
Divide perennials. Every year or two, it’s a good practice to dig up and divide certain perennials, like cannas, daylilies, bearded irises, wood ferns, violets and Shasta daisies. These types of plants develop large clumps or bulbs, and dividing them is a healthy practice that allows them more breathing room.
To divide a plant:
• Dig up the plant, being careful to get as much of the roots as possible.
• Gently separate the roots or bulbs, using a hand tool if necessary before replanting your “extra” plants into other parts of your garden.
• Water thoroughly and lightly mulch to protect these new plants and get them off to a good start.
Clean up your spring and summer garden. That way you’ll make room for your cooler-weather plants.
• Remove any plant that is dead, including spring and summer annuals, like petunias, impatiens and vincas.
• Get rid of your old summer vegetables that are no longer producing, like tomatoes, summer squash and summer greens.
• Trim any plant that is still robust but is seeing the effects of the hot summer months.
• Add all of this garden debris to your compost pile unless it is disease or pest ridden, then moisten the pile and turn it thoroughly.
Freshen up your herb garden. You can plant any perennial herbs now, including dill, fennel, parsley, cilantro, thyme, oregano and rosemary. If you’d like to try your hand at sowing seeds, choose caraway, chamomile, chives, summer savory, borage and chervil seeds. Use a seed-starting kit that features trays of shallow cells, or use peat pots available at your nursery.
Plant perennials. Fall is a wonderful time for planting perennials, and virtually any perennial that is suitable for growing in zones 7 or 8 is a good choice.
Consider adding Mexican mint marigold (Tagetes lucida), Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha), purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), yellowbells (Tecoma stans) and autumn sage (Salvia gregii).
Planting perennials in the fall gives them the cooler months to establish deep, healthy roots, so your spring growth will be much larger and robust.
Plant trees and shrubs. Beginning in September and moving into October and November is the preferred time to plant all trees and shrubs. Just like perennials, trees and shrubs that are planted in the fall will have the winter months to establish a deep root system. Their spring growth and drought resistance will be much better than if you plant them in the warmer months.
Consider trees like Shumard red oak (Quercus shumardii) and crape myrtle(Lagerstroemia spp), and shrubs such as dwarf yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria) and glossy abelia (Abelia grandiflora).
Plant your fall vegetable garden. We can finally plant our cool-season vegetable gardenwith transplants of broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, chard, collards, lettuce, kale, endive and mustard. (Make sure last season’s vegetables are all cleared out before planting the new ones, as unhygienic practices can spread pests and diseases.)
Water your new vegetables and lightly top-dress with mulch or pine needles to discourage weeds, then wait for your first harvest.
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