Are you putting away those gardening tools? Then you're doing it wrong

When is the most wonderful time of the year? Now. 

If you are an experienced gardener, you will likely agree with us: September is our door to the best part of the season. Too bad many people begin thinking about putting away the garden furniture and retiring indoors to the couch.

Your lawn can be great. All it takes is some time and a small investment in seed and fertilizer. We grow the best turf in the world here in Canada.  Grass is a cool season crop that thrives in our cool evening temperatures and the heavy morning dew in September. All you must do is spread some lawn soil, top it off with quality seed, rake and water. Or use the new 4-in-1 seed/compost/iron/nitrogen product, which simplifies everything. Our late father/grandfather used to say that you can lay sod upside down in September and it will still grow. True. Try it if you have $5 to waste. Later this month we will apply 12-0-18plus Iron. This is the most important application of fertilizer of the year.

Here is why we think September is so terrific.

  1. Dig and divide. The fleshy-rooted perennials that have matured in your garden are ready to be divided, if you choose. This is the perfect way to move plants around your yard, expand your plant collection and save money. Hosta, monarda, day lilies, German iris, peonies and Shasta daisies all move well at this time of year. To name a few. Use a sharp spade or garden knife, aka “sod knife”.
  2. Harvest.There is a reason why most fall fairs are taking place across the country this time of year. The harvest is coming in. You can’t have a pumpkin growing contest without pumpkins, right? Your veggies are screaming for your attention. Be sure to pick them as they are ready. Every plant that produces produce (English is a funny language, no?) like a pepper, tomato, cucumber, zucchini etc. needs you to remove the “fruit” when it is ready, or it will rot on the plant. Fact is, nature designed it to do just that. This as the true value of producing a tomato or whatever in the first place: to provide sustenance to the seeds. When the fruit has matured and basically rotted on the plant, it is ready to reproduce by seed. That is why the plant created fruit in the first place.
  3. Plant.Trees, shrubs, evergreens and perennial flowering plants all lend themselves to fall planting. While we wait for the snow to fly in a few months time, winter hardy plants are busy putting down roots that will support aggressive new growth come spring. Fall planted winter hardy plants often out-perform their spring-planted counterparts. This is one reason why we celebrate National Tree day the third Wednesday of September (more on that in an upcoming column). Another benefit to planting at this time of year is that most garden centers are clearing out their remaining inventory, and there are deals to be had.
  4. Holland Bulbs. An RRSP for gardeners. We plant tulips, daffodils, crocus and the like in autumn to provide a big “Hello!” of colour early in the spring. If you don’t invest now, you won’t get the benefits in 5 or 6 months. Like an RRSP only the results are quicker. The best selection of bulbs is at your favourite garden retailer now. Here’s a “pointer”: plant pointy side up, two to three times as deep as the bulb is big. For the record, Holland is a province in The Netherlands.

If this list doesn’t keep you busy enough, plan to plant a tree in public space.

Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, author, broadcaster, tree advocate and Member of the Order of Canada. His son Ben is a fourth-generation urban gardener and graduate of University of Guelph and Dalhousie University in Halifax. Follow them at markcullen.com, @markcullengardening, and on Facebook.

 

 

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