September is a great time to plant spring-blooming bulbs — and not just because the early bird gets the best selection. (Getty Images)

September is a great time to plant spring-blooming bulbs — and not just because the early bird gets the best selection. (Getty Images)

6 items on the gardener’s to-do list for the month of September

Now is the time to improve your landscape, keep it healthy and save yourself work come springtime.

Fall is in the air! The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting cooler and the sun is moving farther south, creating longer shadows on the north side of the garden. These climatological events are triggers for the garden — to let it know that winter is coming — and seasoned gardeners will respond accordingly.

Here are some things gardeners will be doing this month, that you should do as well…

Destress trees and shrubs. For starters, I would recommend spending a few bucks on your water bill and consider soaking the heck out of your yard right now instead of waiting until the fall rains come. Despite a wet June and a few showers in July and August, our soils are bone dry and a good soaking now around trees and shrubs will help them prepare for winter, along with potentially extending their fall colors.

Restore the lawn. Warm days and cool nights are the ideal recipe for grass seed to germinate, and this month is the perfect time to resurrect an existing lawn or to plant a new one. Grass seed can germinate in as little as five to seven days, when it is in the 70s during the day and 50s at night. If you wait until October, it is almost impossible to get a new lawn established.

Control weeds. Most of the weeds that we end up fighting in the spring are germinating this month, although you might not even notice them. By cleaning the garden beds and covering them with a fresh 1-inch layer of mulch, you can eliminate 98% of your spring weeding chores and improve the quality of your soil at the same time. You know how the expression goes — “Give a weed an inch and it will take a yard.”

Replant containers. I know the tendency is to milk our summer pots for every last bloom we can coax out of them, but the longer we wait to replant them, the harder it is to get those new treasures to root in and get established. As nice as some of my containers still look, the fact is that I am kind of tired of them and ready for a change. There is always something refreshing and healing to the soul when I change out my pots for the season. And just so you know, there are a ton of different kinds of plants to choose from that are perfectly hardy for our winters. Check out the options at the garden center this month — you might be amazed.

Plant bulbs. I know this sounds crazy, but we receive our spring-blooming bulbs this month, and the early bird gets the best selection. Tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and the lot are all available for planting. While it is true that I have planted bulbs as late as Dec. 31, I wouldn’t recommend it. For best results, now is the time to plant them. And remember, you can bury a few under your fall container plantings for a surprise or two come spring.

Divide perennials. If you have large clumps of daylilies, shasta daisies, peonies, iris, or any spring- or summer-blooming perennial, you can cut off hunks to either spread around the yard or to share with friends. Just be sure to use some good organic transplanter fertilizer when you replant them, along with a shovelful of compost.

September can be a very active month in the garden. Don’t miss these opportunities to improve your landscape, keep it healthy and actually save yourself work come springtime. Stay healthy and keep on gardening!

Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at

Fall containers

Sunnyside Nursery’s free gardening classes are back — but they’re online for now. A class about planting fall containers is scheduled for 10 a.m. Sept. 19 via Zoom. With registration, you’ll receive a Zoom link to attend the online class. For more information or to sign up, visit

Talk to us

More in Life

Photos by Karina Andrew/Whidbey News-Times 

The Jacob and Sarah Ebey House will open to public visitors Memorial Day weekend.
A landmark steeped in 19th century history reopens on Whidbey

Beginning May 28, you can venture inside one of the state’s oldest buildings: The Jacob and Sarah Ebey House, which dates from the 1850s.

Caption: Incorporating frozen vegetables into your menu plan is a fast and cost-effective way to save money on rising food costs.
The secrets of cheap meals: frozen veggies and slow cookers

They not only stretch your food budget, but also timesaving godsends for busy parents. Here are three recipes to try.

What is diverticulitis and what can I do about it?

People older than 40 should have a screening colonoscopy to determine whether they have this intestinal condition, which can lead to serious medical problems.

Cinderella_Red.jpg: Red Riding Hood (Katelynn Carlson) gets advice from Cinderella (Grace Helmcke) in Red Curtain’s production of Into the Woods, running May 20-June 5 at the Red Curtain Arts Center, 9315 State Ave. in Marysville.
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

Marysville troupe stages a Stephen Sondheim musical masterpiece. Jazz, featuring the sons of legend Dave Brubeck, takes over Edmonds. And there’s this music festival in downtown Everett …

Navigating the rough, often scary seas of a hospital stay

After helping a friend who underwent major surgery, Paul Schoenfeld reflects on ways to cope for patients and their loved ones.

Sam Bowles records the run off the water from a chalk drawing with friend and co-artist, Rhyanna Mercer, Tuesday afternoon in Everett, Washington on May 10, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Jackson High’s global TikTok star is chalk full of ideas

Sam Bowles, 18, uses vibrant videos and social media fame to raise awareness of autism.

I canceled my flight to Frankfurt, but now I can’t use my credit

Melissa Crespo receives a $2,060 ticket credit when she cancels her flights to Frankfurt, Germany. But now her online agency has told her she can only use 25% of the credit at a time. Can it do that?

Lonicera ciliosa, commonly called orange honeysuckle or western trumpet vine. (Richie Steffen)
Great Plant Pick: orange honeysuckle

Its orange trumpets announce spring is here, and hummingbirds are irresistibly drawn to it.

Home & garden happenings in Snohomish County

The Mill Creek Garden Tour will return this summer after a two-year absence due to COVID-19.

Photo Caption: Would you believe a zipper sold for $18,450 at Morphy Auctions? What about a diamond necklace that looks and works like a zipper?
X-Y-Z spells ‘big money’ with this high-fashion zipper

It’s actually a necklace, but the zipper function works. Someone paid nearly $18,500 for it at a recent auction.

The signature retro VW bus is on display at the Lamb & Co. home decor store Saturday afternoon in Snohomish, Washington on January 8, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
This Snohomish store has the goods from HGTV’s ‘Unsellable House’

Take home the design and decor savvy of hometown real estate twins Lyndsay Lamb and Leslie Davis.

The 2022 Infiniti QX60 Sensory has seating for seven. Heated outboard second-row seats and power-return third-row seats are standard equipment. (Manufacturer photo)
Infiniti QX60 Sensory model doesn’t play second fiddle

The new Autograph version tops the 2022 lineup, but this previous headliner holds its own.