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

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