September: To Do in the Garden

by Gary Crispell, EMG

Well, here it is … September! Some of y’all have been waiting for this since last October. For many, it is the beginning of your favorite time of the year—warm days, cool nights, lower humidity, winding down the summer garden … hurricanes. Enough contemplation! There is still much gardening to do this month. Let’s get to it.

With the exceptions noted under “Lawn Care,” you can take your fertilizer and stick it in an air tight container and put it away until Spring.

NOPE!  Fuggeddaboutit. If you must exercise your pruning tools go remove underbrush or unwanted saplings or something. Stay away from your landscape plants.

Stuff to look for and where to look for it:  Wooly adelgid on Hemlock, spider mites on other coniferous evergreens, lace bugs on Azalea and Pyracantha and tea scale on Euonymus and Camellia.

A note about Lace Bugs. They will be active all year anytime the leaf surfaces are warm enough (e.g. about 40 degrees). Being diligent now will help keep them at bay after you have cleaned and put away your sprayer. Also, Azaleas planted in sunny places will have more lace bug issues than those planted in shade.

Spray Peach trees and Nectarine trees for Peach Tree Borers.

Maintain your rose program.

Be watchful in your Fall garden. Many insects and diseases are more active in the Autumn; They like this weather, too.

Weeds to be controlled this month:  Trumpet Creeper, Bermuda Grass and Blackberry.

Only spray if necessary.  Spray as little as possible. ALWAYS READ THE LABLE!

Lawn Care
September is the best time to seed and/or reseed a Tall Fescue lawn. Loosen the soil in bare areas and cover any areas larger than one square foot with wheat straw.

Apply lime and fertilizer as recommended on your FREE SOIL TEST.

Do not fertilize warm season grasses (e.g. Bermuda, Centipede, Zoysia). Fertilizing them now is like giving sugar to your kids at bedtime. They get real active much to their (and your) detriment.

If you missed the August window to treat your lawn for grubs, it is still open until the middle of September.  After that the little buggers quit feeding and go to sleep for the winter.

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

Other Stuff to Keep You Outdoors on Gorgeous Autumn Days
Mulch shrub and flower beds.

Clean up and put away sprayers and other gardening equipment that won’t be used again until Spring.

Get your houseplants ready to come back inside. Break it to them gently by bringing them in for a little while each day. Be sure to rid them of insect pests before they come in for good.

If you do not have a fall garden, (What do you mean you don’t have a fall garden?!?) then it is time to chop, burn or toss dead vegetable plants. Burn or toss, especially if they had disease or insect issues.

Checkout the local garden center for spring flowering bulbs you can’t live without (or just covet a whole lot).  October and November will be the time to plant them. You know, “Shop early for the best selection.”

Find a good trail and take a hike. Take your kids or grandkids to the park. Read a book on the deck or patio. Get out of the house with any excuse you can come up with.

See ya’ in October for leaf season.

Forcing Branches

If you are like me, the crazy up-and-down temperatures have left you anxious for spring weather to stay. Forcing spring flowering branches is one way to bring some spring beauty inside. Since pruning is on many of our garden to-do lists this month, why not gather a few extra branches for forcing?

Flower buds develop on spring flowering branches before winter arrives. These flowering shrubs need a period dormancy triggered by the cold temperatures and shorter days of winter. By February, this requirement has usually been met.

DSC_0119Photo – Ann Barnes

Early spring flowering trees and shrubs are the easiest to force. Forsythia, quince, pussy willows, cherries, and plums are good choices for February forcing. When removing branches for forcing, look for round, plump flower buds like those in the photo above.  Choose branches with a pleasing shape and plenty of flower buds, but don’t forget to maintain the natural shape of your shrubs. For best results, prune on a mild day. While you are collecting branches for forcing, inspect your plants for dead, diseased, or damaged branches and remove those as well. This is not the time for a hard pruning though – you don’t want to spoil the outdoor flower show once spring arrives.

Once you bring your branches inside, cut each at a sharp angle. Many people recommend smashing the bottom inch or two of the branches with a hammer or cutting into the bottom of each branch before inserting them into water. Add a drop of bleach to your water, along with floral preservative or sugar. Water should be changed every few days. Place your container in a cool, dark place until the buds begin to show color, then bring them inside. Arrange your branches, place in a well lit room out of direct sunlight, and enjoy!

Crape Myrtles

A few weeks ago, I nearly stopped in the middle of a run when I saw a landscape crew topping some poor crape myrtles. I kept going, deciding that the landscapers were unlikely to take advice from some random jogger, and vowed to blog about it later.

The topping practice that is sometimes called “Crape Murder” is common, and often thought to be the correct way to prune these beautiful trees. After topping, a plant produces many weak shoots below the cut. This new growth is weak and can be easily damaged by ice, snow, and wind. Last year, I saw this firsthand when a sudden thunderstorm caused a large portion of a topped crape myrtle in my neighborhood to break. It was a sad sight.

Crape myrtles will bloom beautifully even if you do very little pruning. If your plants are small enough, deadheading finished blooms may encourage a second bloom – but topping the poor plants is not necessary. The only pruning a crape myrtle really needs is the removal of suckers, dead branches, and branches that are crossed. That’s it.

For more information, please see

or this video by Mississippi State Extension

-Ann Barnes