The first week of September can be considered a second spring in our Western Washington climate. Cooler nights encourage root growth, so fall is for planting. The autumn season also is a good time for garden projects, landscape renovation, new lawns, transplanting of trees and shrubs and even adding vegetables for winter harvest.
The month of September also earns the award for “best weather to enjoy outdoor living,” so don’t put away the patio furniture just because summer is ending. Instead make this the month you spend your free time in the garden divided between starting new projects and relaxing in the last of the warm weather. Celebrate with a cookout every time you put a check after one of these “must do” chores for September.
1 Fertilize the lawn.
Fall is the most important time of year to feed with a slow-release lawn food. That’s because a lawn fed in the fall will be able to awaken earlier in the spring and the lawn food that has been washed down to the grass roots by winter rains will jump-start new grass growth before the weeds have a chance to wake up. Fertilize in the fall and you’ll have fewer lawn weeds in the spring. Do not feed roses, perennials or trees and shrubs at this time of year.
2 Dig out the deep-rooted weeds in your landscape.
There are two types of weeds – small annual weeds that pull out easily and deep-rooted perennial weeds that creep and crawl and send their seeds and roots all over the garden until they smother your plants, your home and your life.
These evil perennial weeds include the horrible horsetail, menacing morning glory, bad news blackberries and thorny thistles. Devilish dandelions also are part of this hell brigade of perennial weeds. Make this the month you root them out, cut them down and take control. Fall is when these villains send energy down to the roots to store up starch for the winter dormant season ahead. Pull, cut or spray these weeds now and you’ll be investing in a weed-free garden next year.
3 Start (or finish) that big garden project.
Did you have plans for a garden path, poured concrete patio, raised bed garden or retaining wall? This is the month to get organized and get building. That crispness in the autumn air is meant to renew your energy for big projects before winter.
Start with photos from garden magazines and books for inspiration and keep your eyes on the prize as you collect material or make calls to a contractor. Starting garden projects in September means you’ll have a deadline for completion (winter!) and still have time to enjoy the results before cold weather arrives.
4 Death with dignity for summer annuals.
September is the guilt-free month to rip out those pouting petunias, rusty zinnias and other annual or bedding plants that are just past their prime. Did your hanging baskets suffer and wilt while you were on vacation? No need to wince each time you see the suffering. Plants are not people and you do not owe them respect as they age. Off with their heads, out with their roots and make way for a whole new season of color.
The best compost piles are built from summer cleanup, so fill your wheelbarrow with all ugly plants and dump the remains of summer in a hidden corner of the yard. Add some grass clippings and cover with fallen brown leaves. There, you haven’t given up on your plants, you’ve just “repurposed” them as composting opportunities.
5 Fall is for planting.
Add new trees and shrubs, lay sod, seed a new lawn or fill in bare patches, and don’t forget that this is the season for great plant bargains at garden centers.
Local nurseries are full of fall magic with winter pansies, colorful herbs, ornamental cabbage and kale and well-budded, long-lasting chrysanthemums. Refill and redesign your container gardens for fall and winter interest this month and you’ll be smiling all season. Buy bulbs as soon as you see them for sale at the garden centers.
You don’t have to plant tulips, daffodils and all the other spring bulbs this month, but you should buy them up while the supply and selection is best. Then store the bulbs in a cool dry spot and mark your calendar with a planting date sometime before the end of November. It might also help to write on the calendar just where you stored the bulbs. Planting bulbs is a fall tradition, but so, it seems, is finding unplanted bulbs in the spring, still in a bag or box trying to survive without soil or water.