We’ve already had some beautifully cool nights and mornings, and it’s just the end of the first week of September. Add some clouds, and you have quite the spectacular dawn right in your own backyard. Admittedly, some of this will sound exactly like August’s gardening guide. And in some ways, you’ll be busier in the garden now than you were in spring, so let’s jump in and sort out what needs our attention this time of year.
You can still plant beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, collards, lettuce, mustard, onions, radishes, spinach, and turnips in either seed or seedling form. If you already have greens and cabbages planted, you could still do a second planting of those same crops now. Continue to harvest ripening tomatoes and peppers. Don’t forget about your herbs, which can be dried or frozen for use during the fall and winter.
This is a great time to divide and transplant perennials (irises and daylilies come to mind), or plant new perennials, trees, and shrubs. Most will have time to settle in their roots before the ground freezes, and some judiciously applied mulch will provide additional protection against the cold. Deadheading existing plants and shrubs is still on your to-do list as well, so don’t get too big for your breeches.
If you already have an established compost pile, distribute some of that black gold around the garden to enrich the soil. It doesn’t take much to make a difference. Keep adding new material, such as fallen leaves and undiseased garden discards, to your compost pile.
The weeds are probably just as much as an issue as they were in the spring, and the bugs, while not as bad, are still munching away in your garden. Weeds are more easily removed after good rain, and we should have plenty of that over the next few days. Sometimes, the weeds are the only thing holding down the dirt, so if you have areas where you haven’t quite decided what to do, it may make more sense to weed whack instead of ripping out the weeds by their roots. Speaking of erosion (and weed control BTW), you still have time to plant a quick growing cover crop such as buckwheat. Crimson clover and annual rye grass are also some good choices. You can handpick the bugs or use diatomaceous earth and insecticidal soap spray to deal with the little varmints.
Refreshing or replacing mulch will keep the weeds under control. With mulch, there are such things as too close and too much. Don’t pile up the mulch around the trunks of trees, or the stems of plants in your garden, and don’t apply more than several inches. For plants that are susceptible to disease or pests, the best advice is to throw away all the old mulch and put down a new fresh layer of mulch to discourage overwintering of either.
Now is not the time to neglect watering. Keep an eye on all your plants in the garden, paying special attention to the little guys you’ve recently planted, whether they’re winter veggies or baby perennials. Drastically reduce feeding to allow the plants to prepare for winter, and keep your mitts off the pruners. In fact, don’t even touch the shrubs and trees. We’re watching.