With blooming sunflowers, asters and zinnias providing late summer beauty, September is a glorious time to extend the growing season and get a good jump on autumn.
Harvesting tomatoes, sowing cool weather crops or planting spring-flowering bulbs are perfect gardening activities for this time of year. Fall’s cooler temperatures and seasonal rainfall allow vegetation to thrive and adapt to your garden’s conditions without much maintenance.
Here are some tips that should keep you in good stead throughout the coming season.
Vegetable Garden To-Dos:
Tomatoes should be harvested as soon as the first blush of red appears. As the weather cools and the days shorten, many tomatoes will stay green. Harvest the green tomatoes and wrap them in paper along with an apple or banana to encourage ripening. Or hang the tomatoes upside down in a cool, dry room, out of sun and the fruits will ripen.
Lettuce and Radishes
Sow lettuce and radishes in the first week of September in pots or beds. Lettuce seed is light germinated and should be sown on top of the soil.
Both lettuce and radishes are best grown in sun, but can also be grown in partial shade. Radishes are planted to a half-inch-depth. Both require moist soil to thrive. Purchase seeds packets with a 2020 date and read the seed packets for thinning directions.
Recommended radish cultivars are Cherry Belle, Cherry Bomb, Crimson Giant and Easter Egg while suggested lettuce leaf cultivars are Black Seeded Simpson, Deer Tongue and Merlo.
From mid-September through October and even as late as November, garlic cloves are planted 1-2 inches deep and 4-6 inches apart in soil amended with organic matter and 10-10-10 fertilizer. Follow the manufacturer’s directions.
Make sure the soil is rich and drains well. The garlic will be ready to harvest in late June of 2021.
Flower Bed and Turf To-Dos:
Spring blooming flower bulbs
Tulips and daffodils are spring flowering but should be planted in late September through November.
Large hybrid-type tulips, referred to as cottage or Darwin, are treated as annuals (replanted each year) and grow best when planted in drifts clumps and large containers.
Unfortunately, squirrels and chipmunks like to eat tulip bulbs while deer enjoy munching on flower buds. The best solution? Plant bulbs in containers on a high deck or porch. Wrap them in chicken wire when planted. The critters are unable to eat the wire, but the stems will grow through.
Daffodils are treated as perennials, they contain alkaloids which are unappetizing to squirrels and chipmunks. The plants readily naturalize, so give them room to spread.
Water the area, keeping it moist for proper germination. Mow the lawn when the new grass exceeds 4-5 inches to a height of 3½ inches. A healthy turf is the first defense against a weedy lawn in the summer.
Rebecca Brown began her career as a horticulturist more than 25 years ago and studied at the New York Botanical Gardens. She has been a University of Maryland, Baltimore County master gardener for five years and is a backyard beekeeper. Norman Cohen is a retired chemist. He has been gardening for 38 years and has been a University of Maryland, Baltimore County master gardener for 12 years. Cohen also provides gardening education to the public at local farmers markets.