September: To Do in the Garden

by Gary Crispell, EMGV

September, it appears, is upon us which means only two more months of obnoxious political ads.  Except for baseball,  it’s PBS (and books) for me until November.

The Accidental Cottage Garden looks like most perennial gardens in September—more than a little scraggly. There are a few hanger’s-on:  Galardia (Galardia puchella), both coreopsis species (C. lanceolate and C. verticilata), balloon flowers (Platycodon grandifloris) and black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia fulgida) are still pretty. The surprise to me is the tenacity of the forget-me-nots (Myosotis sylvatica). They have been faithful since May. The canna lily (Canna cv. Unknown) has a new friend, swamp aster (Symphyotrichum puniceum).

Forget-me-nots. Photo: Joshua Mayer CC-BY-SA

The tomato hornworms (Manduca quinquiemaculata) have been especially prolific this year. We have six plants and have forcibly removed over 20 caterpillars. Might have to go inorganic.

On an unrelated note, we have a much greater respect and admiration for school teachers. Twice a week our house becomes Zoom school for a kindergartner and a first-grader. Helping them stay engaged is a challenge for those of us who are in the room with them. Watching teachers who are not present with their students attempt to import knowledge and maintain some semblance of order is amazing. Bless all the teachers out there.

And now to the garden.  Bet you thought I’d never get there.

September is the best time to seed/reseed tall Fescue lawns. Loosen the soil in bare areas and cover any area larger than one square foot with wheat straw.

Apply lime and fertilizer as recommended on your FREE SOIL TEST.  (You got one, right?)

Do not fertilize warm season grasses (Bermuda, Centipede, Zoysia).  Fertilizing them now is like giving sugar to your kids at bed time. They’ll get really active much to their (and your) detriment.

The window to treat your lawn for grubs is open until the middle of the month. They tend to go sleepy-by after that.

Nope FERGIDABOUTIT!! Sharpen the shears and put ‘em back up.

Same bad guys as last month. Wooly Adelgid on Hemlock, spider mites on all coniferous evergreens, lace bugs on Azalea and Pyracantha, and Tea Scale on Euonymus and Camellia.

Spray peach and nectarine trees for borers

Maintain your rose program.

Many insects and diseases are more active in the fall. They like this weather, too.

You may dig and divide spring flowering bulbs now. Daffodils will be especially appreciative of this and will express it in the spring.

And I just learned (who said you can’t teach an old reprobate new tricks?) mid-August until November is prime time to transplant peonies. Dig a big hole and a big root ball. Do not plant too deeply. Cut back the stems from this year.

More Things for When You Can’t Get Enough of This Beautiful Weather

  • Mulch shrub and flower beds.
  • Clean and put away sprayers and other equipment that you won’t need again until spring.
  • For those without a fall garden (sad) it is time to chop, burn, or toss dead veggie plants. Especially burn or toss plants that had disease or insect problems.
  • Take somebody’s kids to a park.
  • Just get out of the house and do something. September and October only come around once a year and outside is safer than inside. Besides, you have all winter to stay inside socially distanced and masked.

Stay safe y’all!

Further Reading
2020 Top Performing Tall Fescue and Kentucky Bluegrass Cultivars:

This publication for homeowners and landscapers describes how to mow, fertilize, irrigate, and control weeds in a zoysiagrass lawn.

Learn about Azalea lace bugs:

Roses and the insects of summer:

Peonies for the home landscape:

Visit our Tomato Grafting Project page – A group of Durham County Extension master gardeners grafted their favorite tomatoes onto disease-resistant root stock and wrote about the results.