Jan’s online garden hints

Jan’s September Tips

-Postpone planting spring-flowering bulbs until autumn leaves begin to fall.

-Bring houseplants back inside before temperatures fall below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Hose off the foliage, top and bottom, and check the bottoms of the pots for cocoons or other pests. If you see any small pests such as aphids or whiteflies, spray the foliage with insecticidal soap.

-If you lack enough indoor space to save large potted plants such as hibiscus, lantana and duranta, downsize them: Whack off a large portion of the roots of each plant so the remaining root system will fit in a 6-inch pot, then remove an equal portion of the stems and leaves.

-Plant peonies, placing the roots so that their pink buds, called “eyes,” are covered with 2 inches of soil. Select a sunny spot with well-drained soil.

-Get outdoor containers ready for autumn by replacing struggling annuals with cold-tolerant plants such as alyssum, calendula, chrysanthemum, cup flower (Nierembergia), dianthus, diascia, nemesia, ornamental kale, osteospermum, pansy, snapdragon or stock.

-If you’re planting pansies in the ground, choose small- or medium-flowered varieties for the best chance they’ll survive the winter to bloom again in spring. Also be sure to plant in well-drained soil and cover the soil with a light layer of mulch to protect the roots from alternate freezes and thaws.

-Dig and divide any crowded perennials that have finished blooming for the season, including astilbe, daylily, hosta and phlox. Wait until spring to divide fall-bloomers such as aster, chrysanthemum and sedum.

-Rejuvenate flower beds by trimming away any leaves that are ragged, yellowed or riddled by insect holes. Remove any mildewed foliage of beebalm, delphinium or garden phlox. Cut spotted iris leaves back to healthy foliage.

-Transplant potted chrysanthemums to add color to bare spots. Consider the plants a short-term investment because fall-planted mums are less likely to survive the winter.

-Collect seeds of favorite annuals such as cardinal climber, cleome, love-in-a-mist, melampodium and painted tongue.

-If you want to winter over some annuals, take cuttings of begonia, coleus, or Joseph’s coat to root in water. Root geranium cuttings in damp sand.

-For early spring color in a sunny flower bed, scatter seeds of cool-season annuals such as bachelor buttons, calendulas, larkspurs and poppies.

-For near-instant gratification this fall, plant colchicum and fall-flowering crocus bulbs.

Vegetables, fruits,  herbs:

-As crops finish in the vegetable garden, remove spent plants and add them to the compost pile. Top a 6- to 8-inch layer of dead plant material with 1 to 2 inches of grass clippings or fruit and vegetables scraps, then cover with a 1-inch layer of soil. Repeat layers until the pile is about 4 feet tall.

-For more fresh salad ingredients in just 30 days, sow seeds of fast-growing arugula, or a mixture of greens (mesclun).

-Separate garlic bulbs into individual cloves and plant them pointed end up, covered with 1 to 2 inches of soil, spaced 4 inches apart.


-Pot up tender herbs such as rosemary to grow in a sunny window during the winter.

-If an early frost catches you by surprise, save tomatoes and other tender veggies by hosing off plants in the morning before sunlight hits them.

-Cut winter squash and pumpkins from the vine before the first frost, leaving about an inch of stem intact. Cure at room temperature about a week, then store in a single layer on newspapers at 50 to 60 degrees.

-Improve soil by sowing a cover crop of hairy vetch, winter rye or winter wheat to till into the soil in the spring.

-Pick up and destroy any dropped fruit under apple trees.

Around the yard:

-Plant trees and shrubs now while the cooler autumn weather will make it easy for them to adjust to their new home.  Dig a hole just deep enough so that the top roots sit at soil level. Don’t add fertilizer but do water deeply, then mulch with a 4-inch layer of shredded bark or wood chips. Don’t allow the mulch to touch the trunk but do extend the mulch out as far as the tree limbs. Avoid staking if possible. If staking is necessary on a windy site, don’t stake so tightly that the trunk doesn’t have room to sway.

-Plant cool-season grasses such as bluegrass and fescue in bare spots in the lawn now that autumn weather favors grasses, not weeds. Scratch grass seed into the soil around crabgrass, which will die in the first frost. Water as often as necessary to keep the soil moist until new grasses are established.

-Spread a slow-release fertilizer on the lawn now to help the grass grow thicker and healthier.

 -Expect to see some orange specks of rust disease on the lawn as temperatures cool and heavy dew forms.   Mow to remove infected tips. In dry weather, water during the day so the grass blades will have a chance to dry before night.

-As autumn leaves begin falling, keep the surface of the water garden clear. Skim the leaves off the water surface before they sink, or spread netting over the pond and shake off leaves daily.

-Don’t wait until spring to dig or spot-spray dandelions and other perennial weeds. Do it now, while the plants are still small and not blooming.

-Water plants if nature doesn’t, giving priority to new grass seedlings and to any perennials, shrubs or trees planted this year. Also water the compost pile to keep the ingredients “cooking.”