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September in the Garden

by Sue Adams

We’re so lucky to live in the beautiful Hudson Valley where we can enjoy biking and hiking and the vibrant fall colors of the leaves as they turn to red and yellow. I may be sad to see summer end, but the cooler weather and gorgeous scenery makes being outside such a joy. Now may be the time to put the garden to bed, but….WAIT! Read these tips first. Mark & I will be serving carrots from our garden this Thanksgiving. And you can, too!

Add color with mums, pansies, ornamental peppers, flowering cabbage & kale to your garden beds and containers. Or start fresh with new fall containers, using perennials with interesting leaves and cabbage & kale for texture, mums and pansies for color and millet as an accent for you and the birds to enjoy.

Plan for spring – Buy spring flowering bulbs and garlic to plant in September and October. What a delight it is to see the first daffodils, tulips & hyacinths bloom. Make a note on your 2023 calendar to fertilize with Bulb-tone during active growth.

Houseplants – Bring your plants inside but leave unwanted visitors on your plants behind by submerging the pots in a tub or bucket with warm water about an inch below the rim for 15 minutes, wiping them off or using a sharp spray of water. You can also use a commercially available insecticidal soap or neem oil.

Poinsettia – You’re probably surprised to see a Christmas plant mentioned here. But if you saved one from last year and want it to turn red, at the fall equinox (September 22) your plant will require equal day and night hours. Give your poinsettia only natural light and make sure it’s in complete darkness for 14 hour nights. Whenever you turn on a light, you’ll delay the plant from turning color. Mark’s poinsettia that “hated music” didn’t bloom until March one year. Every time he went into the music room where the poinsettia was, he turned on the light. So maybe it didn’t hate music – just artificial light!

Christmas or Thanksgiving Cactus – Flower buds set as the day length declines, so, like the poinsettia, growing it under artificial light will interfere with the process. Keep your cactus with your poinsettia or leave outdoors until the nights are getting cool. Then bring inside before frost, and the buds should have set.

Lawns – September is a great time to start a new lawn. Mulch the new seeding and keep evenly watered until the ground freezes.

Continue planting trees, shrubs and perennials.

Cut back perennials – but not all! Cutting back now reduces work that needs to be done in the spring. Don’t cut back those that provide winter interest (sedums, astilbe, ornamental grasses) or food for the birds (echinacea).

Too many vegetables? Can, freeze and pickle!

Dry or freeze herbs for yummy winter dishes.

Dry Flowers – Savor the colors of your garden all winter long by creating dried bouquets. Just cut the blooms, leaving as long a stem as possible, bundle them, and hang them upside down in a dry, well-ventilated dark location. After a week or two the flowers will be ready for you to create everlasting bouquets or wreaths.

Extend the season for the vegetable garden – Putting on a heavy mulch in October on crops such as carrots, beets, turnips, kale, spinach and scallions extends the growing season. As you overwinter these crops, the plants convert starches into sugars, helping to protect the crops from freezing, and keeps these vegetables crisp. Overwintered root vegetables will lose their tops, so remember where they were planted!

Clean up the Vegetable Garden – Remove spent fruit, dead foliage and vines and compost. If any of your crops have been ill, burn them or bag for garbage pick up.

Start composting! If you don’t already compost, this is the perfect time to start.

Improve your soil. After cleaning up the garden, spread manure or compost over the surface of the soil, spade or rototill it into the top several inches of soil and rake smooth. Sowing a cover crop of annual rye grass will not only keep the soil in place, but also add an extra dose of nitrogen.

Make notes now for planning next year.

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