In most places, September offers some of the most beautiful weather of the year. Cool, clear nights typically follow crisp, dry, and breezy days. As the first hints of winter make themselves known, avid gardeners strive to get the most out of their fall gardens. Whether you are working on a fall vegetable garden or just looking to create a stunning display of gorgeous fall garden flowers, DripWorks is here to help you get the most out of your efforts with these fall gardening tips.
If you are like me, you have been enjoying the tasty harvest that your garden has been providing throughout the summer. In many regions of the country, September should provide even richer yields.
Besides enjoying bountiful harvests, you need to look ahead. Now is the time to prepare your garden and landscape for fall and winter. The following best practices can give you a leg up.
- Note that many perennials grow in clumps. Often, they become too large for their location and benefit by being divided. If you want to fill in bare spots or expand the areas you have started to plant this year, divide your most beautiful perennial plants by sinking a spading shovel into the earth.
Dig out a six-inch or larger square of root mass from the main large clump and move it to a carefully prepared hole. Water the transplant and keep the soil moist. To avoid transplant shock, prune the leaves back to about half of the transplanted clump. Mulch with straw, leaves or grass clippings to prevent the soil from drying out. Add a drip emitter or two next to the new transplant when you run your drip line to the plant.
- Dig up and divide flower bulbs. Most multiply each season so you can spread out your blooming area. At the same time, look for additional perennial spring blooming flower bulbs different than what you have. This will add variety and excitement to your landscape. Keep in mind that the flowers on flowering bulbs differ. Some are small, and some are tall. Plant, accordingly, with the small ones in the front of a bed and the tall ones toward the rear. Bulbs like daffodil and iris bulbs get planted about six to eight inches deep. Plant smaller bulbs like crocus about four inches deep.
Add a small shovel-full of compost for each bulb and mulch over areas where you have planted. If you live in a place that gets below-freezing temperatures during the winter, dig up, divide, and store dahlia tubers, canna lily corms and allium.
- Now is a good time to harvest herbs before their growth cycle ends. After harvesting, dry them by tying a string on a small bunch of each herb. When the herbs have dried, store them in a cool, dark place or cabinet in glass bottles with labels. You can also store most herbs in your freezer. Always use a pair of clean, sharp and high-quality pruners for this and all pruning chores.
- If you live in the northern states of New England, the Midwest, the Great Lakes area or at high elevations, now is the time to harvest all but the cold-hardy varieties of vegetables. Pick the most cold-sensitive veggies now, like tomatoes. A sudden frost can hit any day. Ornamental gourds and pumpkins can discolor in temperatures below 30 degrees Fahrenheit, so think about picking them. After harvesting, pull out any dead or diseased plants and toss them in the green waste.
- Top dressing with two to three inches of homemade compost or store-bought manure (chicken is best) around your fruit trees and in your garden, areas will help fertilize and enrich the soil through the winter. It will also help keep the weeds down and the soil warmer.
After removing the older plants in your vegetable garden beds, spread fresh compost over the top. Next, disk or spade it in to nourish your beds for 2021. You can easily make your own compost with one of the many composters available online. I highly recommend the practically indestructible Jora Composter, which is easy to load and turn and comes in three sizes: 33-gallon, 70-gallon and 106-gallon compost tumblers. Browse all composting options to find the best choice for you.
- If you are wondering about the best plants to plant for fall, consider a cover crop such as annual rye grass, red clover, or fava beans for their soil-boosting characteristics. Rye grass can help with erosion issues and controlling weeds. Red crimson clover fixes nitrogen and is one of the most beautiful cover crops imaginable. Lastly, fava beans are a legume that also fixes nitrogen in the soil. These beans produce fragrant flowers in the spring too. Bees love these early-flowering plants. Finally, at the start of next summer, these edible beans will provide you, your family, and friends with many marvelous meals as well.
- September and October are good months to plant ornamental trees and bushes. The cooler weather will give them plenty of time to adapt to their new surroundings and establish their roots without the “pressure” to grow and bloom.
- If you enjoy eating fresh carrots, beets and radishes, there should be enough time (with the aid of row cover fabric) to plant them now and harvest them before Thanksgiving. Chard and kale are also good candidates for fall planting. Enjoy these cold-hardy and nutritious leafy greens for consumption later in the fall or even next spring.
- Tidy up and add to your landscape at this cooler time of year. Prune or shape ornamentals and rose bushes. Trim dig up and divide your perennial flowers. If you are planting new trees or shrubs, water them deeply and keep the soil moist until temperatures dip down into the mid-30s. Rake all cuttings and leaves into your compost pile or composter. Schedule the first of each month as a good time to turn your compost pile, including in winter. Cover it with a tarp or a thick layer of leaves so the winter rains do not leach out the nutrients.
- Winterize your drip irrigation system before a sudden frost catches you unaware. Disconnect the hose, tubing and/or timer from the faucet. If you are laying the tubing on the ground, cover the end of the line with a plastic bag and some tape. You can also use an end-of-the-line fitting (ELMC) with a screw-on cap to make sure no dirt and insects get in the drip line during the winter. Store your timer until next spring inside the garage, shed or your home to prevent frost damage. Do not forget to take out the batteries to avoid corrosion. Open the end of the drip line and let any water drain out too. Order drip irrigation winterization supplies ahead of time to be ready when the time comes.
Follow these tips, and you will have peace of mind all winter long that everything is safe and sound. You will be sure to reap the benefits of these forward-thinking and preventative measures when next year rolls around.
It really is true that you reap as you sow. Have a wonderful fall season!