In a recent New York Times article, longtime flower gardener Jenny Rose Carey proclaimed that when it comes to flowers, “September is the new May.” Each year, she visits fall gardens around the country to see what’s still in bloom in September, then applies what she learned in her home garden.
Carey’s strategy involves year-round proactive garden maintenance—in other words, going beyond caring for the flowers and plants that are currently in-season, and working ahead to optimize future growth in her garden.
The rest of us may not be that methodical, but could probably benefit from doing a bit of proactive maintenance. If you’re not sure what, exactly, to do in the garden this month, here’s a September garden checklist that might help.
All gardens are different, so these tasks may not all apply to yours. But generally speaking, here’s what to get done in your garden in September, broken down by category:
- Continue deadheading to encourage growth of a few last flowers this season.
- Divide and/or plant daylilies and peonies early in the month, if you haven’t done so already.
- Start planting spring-flowering bulbs (like daffodils, tulips, hyacinth, crocus, or iris) at the end of the month (or wait until October). Ideally, you want to do this to about six weeks before the ground freezes, or when regular nighttime temperatures are between 40 and 50 degrees. (It’s important to get the bulbs in the ground before it freezes so the roots have time to get established.)
- Continue to harvest fruits and vegetables as they ripen. Leave collards, kale, and Brussels sprouts alone until the first frost, then harvest. (This improves their flavor.)
- Plant a fall cover crop (like oats, winter rye, winter wheat, crimson clover, and hairy vetch) to protect and improve your soil.
- Can, ferment, dry, or freeze any surplus produce.
Also, if you’ve wanted to start a compost heap, September is a great time to do it—and this Lifehacker guide to composting can help.