By Steve Smith, Sunnyside Nursery
Repeat after me: September is late summer, it is not fall.
September brings us warm soils, cool nights and happy plants. It’s like a mini-spring. Some rhodies actually re-bloom in late summer and many hedge plants put on another flush of growth. Lawns start to grow again and look green for a change. The plants are excited about the season and we should be, too. So forget any of this fall nonsense, it’s just late summer.
September is the ideal time to do major landscape planting. Shrubs and trees are so thrilled to get out of their nursery pots that they will root in over night and explode come the following spring. Add some EB Stone Organic Sure Start for a slow release supply of nutrients and some EB Stone Compost for a good source of soil microbes, both of which help plants get established more quickly.
Lawns love this time of the year. Why shouldn’t they, they’re plants too! After being tromped on all summer by the kids and left to die while we were on vacation, grass plants somehow realize it’s safe to start growing again. Fertilize them with an organic slow release food and water them and by the end of the month they should be gorgeous. If you are fighting clover and dandelions, then this is the last month to effectively eliminate them. If your lawn is totally trashed then you might consider over-seeding. You’ve got until early to mid October to resurrect the lawn or it will look like heck all winter and probably become a weed patch by spring. Sorry, I tell it like it is.
Late summer is a great time to move plants. There is something about fall that makes me want to rearrange things. I know this is a common feeling because the wife always moves the furniture this time of year. I don’t pretend to understand this desire. I suspect it goes back to our nomadic days when we were wandering around the globe looking for new grazing ground — only instead of us moving to a new site, now we stay put and change the looks of our existing site. It has the same effect on our minds. The good news about all this moving is that perennials and smaller shrubs are more than happy to be relocated in the fall.
Containers need to be refreshed this month. Regardless of what you put in your containers, some parts, if not all of it, probably need to be replaced. Cut out the annuals with an old saw blade or kitchen knife, put in some fresh potting soil and insert your favorite accent. Or, dump the whole mess out, top off the remaining soil, add some fertilizer and create an entirely new composition for the fall and winter. Containers have become portable stages for horticultural drama and I think it is just wonderful. Fall is the time to try your hand at casting a winter container play.
Bulbs are synonymous with this time of year. Garden centers receive their spring blooming bulbs in late August and early September and while many of us aren’t quite ready to remove our summer color this is the best time of shop before the selections dwindle down to only yellow daffodils and red tulips. Buy them now, store them in a cool place and plant them in October or November at the latest. I may grumble about planting these bulbs in the fall but I never regret it come spring.
We’ve got about 6 to 8 weeks left in the gardening season to do some pruning, fertilizing, planting, weeding and redesigning. Plant some bulbs, move a few plants, resurrect the lawn and freshen up the containers and the winter will be a whole lot shorter.
Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.