University of Vermont
Department of Plant and Soil Science

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HARVESTING AND OTHER SEPTEMBER GARDENING TIPS

Leonard Perry, UVM Horticulturist
and Charlie Nardozzi, Garden Consultant

Ensuring continued fall harvest, mowing and patching lawns, and planting garlic are some of the gardening activities for this month.

Continue harvesting warm season crops of beans, peppers, and tomatoes, and be prepared to cover the plants in case an early frost threatens. If covered, these heat-loving plants may survive a light frost.  Often there may be several frost-free weeks after the first frost, during which youíll get more harvest.  Use floating row covers, which are designed to hold the heat in, or take your chances covering plants with old sheets, cardboard boxes, or whatever else you can find. Extend the covers to the ground. 

Once harvest is done, or plants die from frost, clean the garden.  Itís a good time to check the soil pH or acidity, and adjust if needed for next year, as well as to add some compost.  Your beds will then be all ready for spring planting.

Early fall is a good time to patch bare spots in your lawn -- the cooler temperatures encourage good germination and root growth.  Weeds arenít germinating then either to compete.  Prepare the area by raking thoroughly, loosening the topsoil if it is compacted, then adding a thin layer of compost or topsoil. Cover newly seeded areas with row cover or a light scattering of straw to keep birds from eating the seed, and keep it well watered.

As long as lawns are growing, keep mowing.  With the cooler days later in the fall, grass will remain vigorous, especially if there is rain.  As during the season, donít mow when grass is wet, though, if possible.  This ensures a better cut, avoids clumps of wet grass, and is easier on your mower.  The end of this month, or early next, with your expected last mowing, mow slightly lower.  This avoids tall grass over winter, which mats down and can lead to disease.

Later this month and into next is garlic planting time. Don't plant garlic from the grocery store, because it may have been treated to prevent sprouting, and it may not be adapted to your growing region.  Place orders now for garlic for planting this fall, or buy when available at your local garden or feed store. Plan to plant your garlic shortly after the first hard frost -- this will allow the garlic enough time to develop strong roots before winter.  Make a note to cover later in fall with a light layer of straw mulch.

Avoid pruning woody plants and roses now; it will encourage a flush of new growth that may be damaged by the upcoming cold temperatures.  Instead, wait until late winter or early spring to prune most trees and shrubs. Exceptions to this rule are spring-blooming shrubs, such as lilacs and azaleas, which should be pruned in spring after flowering. You can prune off branches that break in the wind or from other causes.

Itís time to start some mesclun greens and leaf lettuce in bare spots in the garden for fall picking. Mix in some compost before seeding and give new seedlings a dose of liquid fish emulsion. Another option is to start some in window boxes or containers.  These can be placed within easy reach of the kitchen, or brought indoors during hard frosts.  Theyíre great, too, if you donít have a garden or space to garden in the ground.

Other garden activities for this month include buying and planting spring bulbs, visiting an apple orchard, making cider and apple pies, having frost covers ready for tender flowers, and bringing houseplants indoors if they were outside during summer.  Repot them if needed.

(Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally known horticulturist, author, gardening consultant, and garden coach; gardeningwithcharlie.com).     

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