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September is the gateway to autumn

By Beet September 2020 37 Comments

About now you may be questioning why you love gardening so much. The heat, the weeding, the bugs, the inexorable growth of plants now hiding your garden pathways… Oh! Enough about my garden!

September is the gate to autumn. We think about planting trees, perennials, and cooler weather crops. The soil is still warm and invites the newly planted to expand their roots so they’ll be rarin’ to go for next year.

Cool weather annuals shine as they welcome autumn and fill the holes left by the spent beauties of the summer. There is still time to enjoy mums, pansies, kale, dusty miller, asters, black-eyed Susans, dahlias, and others.

Climate change has tricked traditional planting times so they may need a bit of finessing. An eye to the various weather apps helps our temperature/rain divinations. At least we can count on knowing the length of days as seasons progress.

It’s time to harvest. Enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Tomato plants should be de-flowered and the smallest fruits removed to redirect energy to ripening the existing fruits before frost, though it wouldn’t hurt to have a green tomato recipe or two on hand! A ripe tomato will detach from the plant with the slightest tug. Nearly mature green tomatoes will ripen after harvest.

Summer squash should be picked smaller rather than larger for the best flavor and to avoid production of excessive seeds.

Winter squash is ready to harvest when the stem is brown and shriveled. Store at room temperature for about a week to give skins time to cure and then at about 55 degrees F. Cull the smallest fruits so the larger ones can continue to develop.

Melons have been wonderful this year. I was surprised to learn that melons do not ripen after harvest. They’re as sweet as they are going get when you pick them.

Potatoes are ready to harvest when the tops die down. Store them in a dark place.

Divide peonies and iris. Transplant woody ornamentals and mature herbaceous perennials. Plant bulbs for spring bloom. Daffodils, tulips, crocus, alliums–all are spirit boosters after a long winter. These bulbs thrive in pots, too, as long as the pots are fair-sized to defend against freeze damage.

Lawn refurbishing is perfect at the beginning of September. Rake thatch if needed, even out low spots with compost, over-seed, fertilize, then finish with a thin topping of compost. Finally, avoid any traffic over this area until the grass is established. Water two or three times a day, every day, for successful germination. Never let new grass seed dry out.

Repatriate house plants from their outside summer homes if low temperatures threaten. Top up potting soil and lightly fertilize. Check for spiders and other unwanted house guests that might like a longer lease on their living space.

As gardeners, we know this list is woefully incomplete. There’s so much more to talk about! Here are two great local references: The JCMGA Garden Guide for the Rogue Valley give a lot of advise for the Rogue Valley climate, and the OSU Extension has a great September Garden Calendar.

We are living in tumultuous times. Uncertainty is the daily fare. Our unfailing defense is nature, in our own gardens, walking our neighborhoods, or out in open wild places. Breathe the smells of nature, the scent of pine trees, the tangy scent of tomato plants, the anise smell of hyssop, and the salty ocean. Breathe, release, repeat.