September in the Garden

September in the Garden

September in the Pacific Northwest brings the end of summer and the beginning of fall — and with any luck, a bountiful harvest of fresh fruits and veggies from our gardens! There’s plenty to keep us occupied this time of year, and that’s before we even consider that school starts back for many students this month. As you take advantage of fall planting time, transition your kitchen garden for the cool months, and harvest and preserve your summer bounty, remember to take a little time to enjoy all the work you put in this season and soak up those last remaining rays of summer before they’re gone.

 

In the Garden

As fall approaches, we enter prime planting time for our PNW climate. Not only do September rains help to loosen the soil and make digging easier, but the combination of warm soil and cooling air temperatures provides the perfect conditions for new transplants, encouraging them to invest energy into root development rather than top growth. That makes this month the perfect time to plant a variety of trees, shrubs, and perennials — including fall-flowering natives like Pacific aster and Canada goldenrod, which offer not only the beauty of wildflowers, but value to wildlife.

Late summer annuals and perennials like mums, agastache, echinacea, and black-eyed susans will continue to provide color well into fall, offering an instant infusion of floral beauty right where you need it. And for nonstop blooms from fall through spring, it’s hard to beat pansies and violas, which we are fortunate to enjoy as perennials in our zone.

Speaking of spring, September is the time to get ahead of planting next year’s spring show with fall-planted bulbs. Our extensive collection of spring-flowering bulbs typically arrives by the middle of the month, giving gardeners time to get them in the ground before the cold rains set in. We usually recommend planting your tulips and daffodils before mid-October, but late is better than never. With a little planning, fall-planted bulbs can be an inexpensive way to add color and pollinator value that stretches from late winter all the way into summer. Consider incorporating bulbs into your cool season containers for a surprise show in spring!

Pest Patrol

As with August, watch closely for signs of apple maggots in September. These tiny larval pests start life as eggs laid by a fly under the skin of apple, and the brownish-grey tunnels they create can devastate your beautiful apple crop.

To prevent these pests naturally, it’s best to stay on top of your cleanup routine by picking up dropped fruit from around the base of your trees. You can also consider using sticky traps like the ones we carry in-store. The flies are attracted to the apple lures and ensnared in the sticky coating.

Slugs also continue their reign of terror this month, but Sluggo Snail and Slug can help to keep them under control.

For the Kitchen

The harvest is on in September! Tomatoes, peppers, squash, melons, and more are providing good yields this month — even in a year like 2022 where the combination of a cold, wet spring and blazing hot summer has set many crops back. If you still manage to find yourself with an excess of certain fresh produce in spite of these growing difficulties, freezing and canning are two great options for making sure nothing goes to waste. (And you can always depend on a gifted loaf of freshly baked zucchini bread to help you work down your stockpile of these skinny green squash while building a bit of neighborly goodwill!)

As summer veggies fade, kitchen gardeners are perfectly poised to keep the harvest going. We love winter vegetable gardens because they’re easy: All you have to do is plant your crops and keep them watered until the fall rains do it for you. Early September is ideal for sowing winter greens under cloches, which can then be harvested throughout the winter to provide a steady stream of fresh veggies for your table. Garlic, arugula, spinach, chicory, radicchio and cabbage are all fantastic hardy options. In late September, seedlings and starts of winter veggies can be planted out in the garden in time to reach a size of at least one- to two-inches before the cold sets in, which will signal them to enter stasis. Although they will grow slowly in this state, the resulting flavor is fantastic: Crops that have overwintered are sweeter when they begin to grow again in the early spring, thanks to the sugars these plants produce as a natural “antifreeze” mechanism.

As with painting, when it comes to planting, it’s best to start with a blank canvas: Remove any residual weeds, then prepare the ground by chopping down the remnants of your spent summer crops and turning them into the soil. Then, you will want to cover the area for a week or two to help aid decomposition and inhibit weeds. When incorporated into the soil, this plant matter helps to provide necessary nutrients for your overwintering plants.

If you don’t plan to plant an edible winter garden, it’s an excellent idea to sow a cover crop such as crimson clover, fava beans, or buckwheat to enrich the soil with nitrogen for next year’s vegetables. A cover crop also prevents weeds from getting a foothold in your beds!