It is possible that September and October are my favorite months to garden. The garden looks lovely, the humidity is gone and rather than thinking about the disappointments of this summer I am looking forward to next season and preparing the garden for winter.
By working in the garden now — cleaning, weeding and amending the soil — I am giving the garden the best possible start next spring. Here are some of the chores that need to be done in the next few weeks.
September is the time to fertilize and apply broad leaf weed killer to the lawn if you are so inclined. I have heard from many gardeners who have opted not to use chemicals on their lawns. For those who want to eradicate broad leaf weeds such as dandelions, now is the correct time to do so.
To kill ground ivy, a second application of herbicide after the first frost will be needed. Follow label instructions completely, as some herbicides need to be applied on wet grass and some when no rainfall is predicted.
If you have bare spots in the lawn to seed, you will want to take care of that by the first week in October. However, if you applied herbicide you will need to postpone seeding, as the herbicide will kill seedlings. Read the product label for specific time requirements.
When you do seed, be consistent about watering until germination. In my own backyard, leaves are starting to fall. If leaves come down on your newly seeded lawn, use a leaf blower or another gentle way to remove them.
Cleaning up the vegetable patch is an important step in keeping your vegetable garden healthy next year. Insects and diseases can over-winter in decaying plant debris. This year, it is important to thoroughly clean areas where late blight and other fungal diseases thrived.
You want to throw the entire plant of diseased tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and potatoes into the trash and not the compost pile.
If you still have vegetables growing, be prepared for the colder nights by having floating row covers at hand. When thrown over the vegetables, the row covers provide a few degrees of frost protection.
This is also a fine time to start preparing a new garden bed. Till the area and add compost, leaves and garden debris. Plant winter rye to suppress weeds and keep soil from being moved by wind and water.
This is a great time to visit local nurseries and select a tree or shrub for your garden. Often shrubs and trees have been marked down. As you look at what is available, carefully inspect the plant. You wouldn’t want a tree with a canker or damaged bark, for example.
As part of your inspection, examine the roots. The roots should look healthy — not soft, smelly or brown. When you plant, gently tease any compacted roots apart with your fingers.
This is also an ideal time to divide perennials and share them with friends and neighbors.
Keep any new plants well watered until the ground freezes as the roots are actively growing even though the air is cool.
If you have the space, gather as many leaves as you can and transform them into mulch by running the mower back and forth over the leaves. Place these directly onto the flower beds where they act as mulch and eventually decay, adding nutrients to the soil.
October is the month to add tulips, daffodils, crocus, iris and hyacinths. If you are too busy in October, this job can be done in November. If you still don’t get to it by December, you can force bulbs into bloom by keeping them in the refrigerator for several months before planting them in a container. After a cold period of several months — which bulbs need to bloom — take them out of the refrigerator and grow them in a window for early spring flowers in your home.