BY MELISSA SERENDA AND LINDA SCHREIBER
The heat of July and August seems to have passed. The calendar says September and fall is in the air. It’s still not time to clean your tools just yet. Get those gardening gloves out—there’s plenty of work to do this month.
It’s Thyme to dig and pot tender herbs and put them in a sunny window to supply seasonings all year long.
When gladiolus leaves begin to brown, dig and dry corms in the sun for a few days.
Divide perennials (not asters and mums that haven’t bloomed) and replant peony roots (but don’t plant peonies too deep). Cut perennials back after a frost.
Bring coleus, geranium, caladium, and begonia plants indoors. Now is a good time to take coleus cuttings and share them with friends. Let your amaryllis and Christmas cacti rest in a cool area for three months.
Inspect and plant spring flowering bulbs—tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, Siberian squill, dwarf irises, anemone and crocus—in early September and add fertilizer as you prepare the soil. Sow snapdragons, cornflowers, and other hardy annuals a few weeks before the first frost—be sure to mark where you’ve planted to avoid damaging the seedlings in the spring.
Don’t trim rose bushes in the fall. It’s best to wait until spring so diseases aren’t easily introduced to your plants but it is okay to remove damaged leaves.
In the vegetable garden, get weeds out before they set seeds that will create havoc in the spring. Clear gardens after harvest and destroy diseased or damaged plants. It’s okay to compost them at the Iowa City Landfill because compost is heated sufficiently (140-150ºF) to kill any bacteria or disease.
Watch for early frosts and cover the garden to allow for more growth. Remove newly-set tomatoes, blossoms and new growth five weeks before an expected frost—those fruits won’t have time to mature. Some root crops can be left in the garden and dug as needed. Apply mulch to keep the ground from freezing.
Sow annual ryegrass or other cover crops and add green manure to areas of the garden that won’t be planted until spring. Harvest carrots, beets, and turnips before the first frost kills the foliage. These veggies will store better and longer. Harvest pears when they are light green. Harvest grapes and fertilize vines with bone meal. Rake leaves and fallen apples to control any disease. Cut spent raspberry and blackberry canes.
After onion tops have wilted lift the bulbs out of the ground and dry them in a warm, dry, sunny location for a few days.
Aerate the lawn when temperatures drop to 60 to 70ºF and if you fertilize apply a slow-release fertilizer. Overseed lawns to fill in bare spots. Fall is an excellent time to plant trees and shrubs. Cooler temperatures encourage good root development. Water until the ground freezes. Stop fertilizing trees and flowering shrubs.
Keep your tools handy for another month or so. In the meantime, it’s never too late to identify perennials with permanent tags or stakes, or create a map so you can find them again in the spring. Your effort will be rewarded when you avoid accidentally digging up something you wanted to keep.