I hear you, September isn’t already super busy – book clubs, bridge clubs, school outings, football games. Now that Summer is over, no more lollygagging. It is time to make sure you know what day of the week it is, and any day is a good day to be in the garden.
If you can schedule just a little gardening time in your full calendar, the extra effort made in September will mean a more beautiful and less stressful garden next year. So it’s time to get serious about your end of season work, and the cooler temperatures will make the work even more enjoyable.
Like anything we do, there is a little bit of dull work before we can get to the fun stuff. Here are the must do’s before you plant:
- Remove dead plants and leaves – this will keep diseases from spreading. You can compost these to use next year.
- Pull up plants that won’t winter over and bring house plants inside.
- Pull up all of those weeds you missed during your summer maintenance.
Now through October is the best time to plant.
- Winter annuals can add add color and texture to an otherwise barren landscape.
- Who doesn’t love Bulbs for Spring blooming?
- Shrubs & trees will fare much better if they have the fall and winter to get established before having to face a hot Virginia summer.
- The prettiest lawns come from Fall core aeration and reseeding.
Winter Color and Texture
- Mums. Even when they stop blooming, many Mums will last through another year if in the right spot.
- Snapdragons, violets, violas, and ornamental cabbage
- Daffodils, jonquils, lilies, iris, tulips, crocus, hyacinths, early spring
Tips for Planting Shrubs and Trees
- Do a little planning first. Check exposure, drainage, competition (other tree or shrub roots), plant purpose (shade, color, form?), and mature plant size. If you want a bush, don’t plant a tree and vice versa (see Crepe Murder post for more insights).
- Whether moving a plant to a new location or putting in a new friend, the new planting hole should be shallow and broad. Make the hole at least three times as wide as the root ball, but no deeper.
- Identify the trunk flare. The trunk flare is where the roots spread at the base of a tree. When you plant a tree, the trunk flare must be visible above ground. The most common cause of death of newly planted trees and shrubs is planting too deep.
- Set the plant in the hole and start back-filling. Fill the hole one-third full and gently but firmly pack the soil around the base of the root ball. Water generously. Continue to back-fill.
- Apply a 2- to 4-inch layer of organic mulch. Make sure the mulch is 3″ away from
- the trunk. A good rule for trees is 3x3x3. 3″ deep, 3″ away from the trunk, and 3′ around. This is a critical step.
- Broad-leaved evergreen shrubs such as a rhododendron or holly will need careful watching during the winter as they are more susceptible to wind burn and even sunburn which means extra watering.
- You can continue to plant into November, in case your calendar is too packed. As the soil temperature is above 40 degrees, roots will continue to grow.
Dividing and Replanting
Early September is the perfect time to divide and conquer. Hostas, spring bulbs, Iris and perennials all do better if divided and replanted when they aren’t in the growing phase. Be sure to water your plants. Daily for the first week, especially if a warm spell occurs. Apply 2-3 inches of mulch.
One of the reasons many plants that are put in in the fall don’t make it is a lack of water. When you apply dry around a plant, it tends to hold the water that comes from above, and pulls moisture from underneath. So don’t go for a quick sprinkling on your fall plantings, make sure you apply enough water to reach the roots.
Taking care of your garden, even when it is going dormant makes for a very well mannered garden come Springtime.
Next Step – Leaves!