Now is a good time to get out in the garden. Along with the many things that need to be done now, there are also a few things that should not be done now.
Things to DO in September
Make notes in a journal about what plants performed well this year and which ones were disappointments. It's amazing how, during the few months of winter, all is forgotten about many annual plants from the previous season.
In my journal, for instance, I will note how pleased I was with the planting of 'New Look' celosia and Dusty Miller, and how nice the 'Hawaii Blue' ageratum looked throughout the summer in the terra cotta planters on the deck corners. I will also note that I was not happy with the look of the 'Easy Wave Red' petunias I used in several plantings. The plants flourished in their plantings, but the true red blooms I was hoping for quickly changed to cherry-red. I'll also put a big star by the Perrilla Magilla planting I tried for the first time this season. This burgundy foliage plant performed admirably in both shade and sun plantings.
September and October are the ideal months to plant spring bulbs such as tulips, daffodils, crocus and hyacinth.
Divide some of the plants from the perennial garden. By now, many of the early blooming perennials have slowed growth enough to transplant without causing tremendous stress on the plants. With cool nights and four to eight weeks of growing season left in the year, the moved plants should have ample time to root in well, and will have a better chance at jumping right out of the ground next spring.
Clean up the sprayer that was used this season. Most of the garden pests are soon to be done causing problems for this growing season. A few ounces of bleach or ammonia added to the rinse water will deactivate most herbicides and insecticides that are used in the home garden. Make sure to run rinse water through the sprayer by pumping pressure up and releasing it through the wand. Garden chemicals, such as glyphosate (Roundup™), are hard on rubber wipers and seals if they are left in contact in a sprayer. It's always upsetting to have a sprayer leak or not work properly when it is time to use it.
Begin cleaning up vegetable garden debris left by plants that are finished for the season. Foliage and other litter left in the garden area create an ideal setting for insects and disease to overwinter and infect garden plants again - possibly doing even worse damage the second time around. Properly composted plant material will take care of these pests, but if you had a severe problem of some sort, it may be best to remove the debris to a municipal composting site.
If you enjoy feeding the backyard birds, now is the time to get out your birdhouses and bird feeders. Offering feed now will ensure that you'll have plenty of visitors as the food supply of flower and plant seeds begins to dwindle in the weeks ahead.
Things NOT to do in September
Do not fertilize roses and other woody plants any more this season. Fertilizing from this time until dormancy may promote a flush of growth that will not have time to harden off - mature to the point that weather will not affect the growth - before winter sets in. The ideal time to fertilize trees is after the foliage has fallen, while the roots are actively growing - but top growth is not a concern.
Whatever you do, don't let this time of year slip by without enjoying the garden. As we all know, it won't be long until we're peering out through a frosty window, wishing for a sign of spring.