Fall Shopping and Other September Gardening Tips
Charlie Nardozzi, Horticulturist and
Leonard Perry, UVM Extension Horticulturist
Taking advantage of fall plant sales, keeping new plantings watered well, and using excess tomatoes are some of the gardening activities for this month.
The sales are on. There’s still plenty of time to plant trees and shrubs. Root growth will continue into late fall or early winter, and plants won’t have the heat of spring or summer to dry them out. Be sure to water well at planting time and every week until they go dormant. If you don’t have a spot ready for your new additions, submerge them in bare spots or beds in the vegetable garden — pot and all.
Plants that are still developing new root systems need ample water in the fall before they go dormant. Roots grow until the soil temperature gets down to the low 40s (degrees F), so moisten the entire root zone once a week unless you have a soaking rain. Moisten means to water well. A good soaking less often promotes deeper roots better able to withstand stress.
Don’t let excess tomatoes go to waste. Plum tomatoes and cherry and grape minis dry fairly easily in the oven. Slice them in half lengthwise, set them on a baking sheet, and drizzle with olive oil and sea salt. Roast them in a 250-degree oven until they are no longer juicy. When cool, line them on cookie sheets to freeze first (so they don’t clump), then pack in freezer bags.
If weeds got ahead of you this summer, now is a great time to get ahead of them. Being the end of the season they won’t come back as they do during the summer. Make sure not to put in the compost weeds with seeds, or thick stalks that take a long time to decompose. Make sure if weeds have gone to seed to carefully cut off the seedheads first, so you don’t disperse them around the garden and create even more weeding work next year.
Make notes about this year’s garden and flower plantings—what you liked, what combinations worked, what went wrong. Note locations of vegetable crops so you can plan a rotation for next season, not planting those in the same family in the same spot. So, for instance, where you had squash this year you might plant carrots or onions next; where you had beans you might plant lettuce or greens next year.
After spending the summer growing foliage and replenishing the bulb, your amaryllis needs a rest. Bring it inside into a cool, dark spot and stop watering for a couple of months. When you see new growth beginning, or when you are ready to start the flowering process, bring the pot into light, refresh the top inch of soil, and begin watering. Take care not to overwater, especially if there’s no growth yet. Different varieties have different bloom cycles but, in general, your bulb should bloom in about 10 to 12 weeks.
With frost likely later in the month, prepare to cover plants at the last minute. Make sure the cover extends all the way to the ground to hold in the heat, and try to prop it above the foliage so the leaves don’t freeze. Old sheets are handy for this, as are light fabrics available at complete garden stores sold for frost protection.
If you haven’t ordered spring-flowering bulbs for fall planting, such as daffodils and tulips, you can find these this month in many garden stores. If you have deer and other wildlife, think daffodils, as these wont be eaten by them.
Other gardening activities for this month include visiting orchards for apples and cider, digging up to store indoors tender bulbs such as cannas and dahlias, and planting fall mums.
Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally known horticulturist, author, gardening consultant, and garden coach (CharlieNardozzi.com). Distribution of this release is made possible by New England Grows– a conference providing education for industry professionals and support for Extension’s outreach efforts in horticulture.