A Gardening Checklist for September

In September, our peppers ripen to their fullest flavor, pumpkins and winter squash grow fat, and tomatoes slowly produce fewer fruits. Dahlias, Tithonia, and Morning Glory come into their prime just as other flowers like Cosmos set seed. Soon we will be harvesting our fall crops, tidying up spent plants and freeing up space for fast-growing root vegetables and leafy greens. Although we are transitioning away from the main planting season, September still has lots of potential: read on for some gardening tips.

Sow for Fall Harvests

In our planting zone, September's cooler temps means it's time again for sowing Radishes, like the delicious French Breakfast Radish (left). Leafy greens like Braising Mix, Mesclun Mix, or Salad Savor will thrive, as well as, Arugula, Mustard Greens, Bok Choy, Tatsoi, Komatsuna, and Spinach.

Because daylight hours are waning, crops will grow a little more slowly; for this reason, tack on an additional two weeks for crops to reach their maturity compared with spring sowing.

Plant Next Year's Crops

This month, don't forget to reserve your bulbs! Garlic, Shallots, and many Flower Bulbs will need to be sown in the fall in order to enjoy their bounteous and beautiful rewards the following growing season. Read all about growing Garlic in this recent blog post. For planning your spring garden, explore our full collection of flowering bulbs here.

Consider dedicating a space in the garden for Poppies, Echinacea, Milkweed and other Fall-Sown Flowers. By keeping a diverse range of annual and perennial flowers growing in the garden, you will invite beneficial insects and have a healthier, better-pollinated garden over all.

Give Back to Your Soil

It's time to sow fall cover crops. Cover crops protect the top layer of soil from erosion, suppress weeds, restore nitrogen, improve tilth, and even feed pollinators. Oats, Peas, Buckwheat, and Rye can all be planted in September. For more details on timing and uses for each crop, go to our Fall Cover Crop Planting Chart.

You can further improve the soil by incorporating a late season top dressing of fresh compost.  Adding compost will foster better aeration and water retention to benefit plant roots.

Protect Your Plants

Want to harvest more from your fall crops? Of course you do. Invest in Row Cover and Hoops to extend your growing season by two to four weeks this year. Read more about season extension here.

Although the approach of fall may seem rapid, it's important to remember that plants naturally germinate and grow more slowly in these shorter days and cooler temperatures. Keep your expectations in check and take the long view: cultivate healthy soil; plant not just for this season but for the next; protect your crops; and take note of what works for you and your garden.

More Garden Activities for September:

  • Divide spring and summer blooming perennials–like daylilies and peonies–and replant. Water in well.
  • Cultivate a section of the garden for fall-sown wildflowers.
  • Browse local nurseries to shop for fall-planted trees and shrubs.
  • Fertilize roses; remove diseased leaves and dead canes.
  • Pot up decorative kale and mums for late season color.
  • Dig up herbs like Parsley and Chives to bring indoors as potted plants for a sunny windowsill.
  • Dry flowers like Strawflower, Gomphrena, and Love in a Mist to create a pretty fall centerpiece.
  • Read this poem about "September Tomatoes" by Karina Borowicz.
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