University of Vermont
Department of Plant and Soil Science
Fall News Article
HARVESTING AND OTHER SEPTEMBER
Leonard Perry, UVM Horticulturist
and Charlie Nardozzi, Garden Consultant
Ensuring continued fall harvest, mowing and patching lawns, and planting
garlic are some of the gardening activities for this month.
Continue harvesting warm season crops of beans, peppers, and tomatoes, and
be prepared to cover the plants in case an early frost threatens. If
covered, these heat-loving plants may survive a light frost. Often
there may be several frost-free weeks after the first frost, during which
youíll get more harvest. Use floating row covers, which are designed
to hold the heat in, or take your chances covering plants with old sheets,
cardboard boxes, or whatever else you can find. Extend the covers to the
Once harvest is done, or plants die from frost, clean the garden. Itís
a good time to check the soil pH or acidity, and adjust if needed for next
year, as well as to add some compost. Your beds will then be all ready
for spring planting.
Early fall is a good time to patch bare spots in your lawn -- the cooler
temperatures encourage good germination and root growth. Weeds arenít
germinating then either to compete. Prepare the area by raking
thoroughly, loosening the topsoil if it is compacted, then adding a thin
layer of compost or topsoil. Cover newly seeded areas with row cover or a
light scattering of straw to keep birds from eating the seed, and keep it
As long as lawns are growing, keep mowing. With the cooler days later
in the fall, grass will remain vigorous, especially if there is rain.
As during the season, donít mow when grass is wet, though, if
possible. This ensures a better cut, avoids clumps of wet grass, and
is easier on your mower. The end of this month, or early next, with
your expected last mowing, mow slightly lower. This avoids tall grass
over winter, which mats down and can lead to disease.
Later this month and into next is garlic planting time. Don't plant garlic
from the grocery store, because it may have been treated to prevent
sprouting, and it may not be adapted to your growing region. Place
orders now for garlic for planting this fall, or buy when available at your
local garden or feed store. Plan to plant your garlic shortly after the
first hard frost -- this will allow the garlic enough time to develop strong
roots before winter. Make a note to cover later in fall with a light
layer of straw mulch.
Avoid pruning woody plants and roses now; it will encourage a flush of new
growth that may be damaged by the upcoming cold temperatures. Instead,
wait until late winter or early spring to prune most trees and shrubs.
Exceptions to this rule are spring-blooming shrubs, such as lilacs and
azaleas, which should be pruned in spring after flowering. You can prune off
branches that break in the wind or from other causes.
Itís time to start some mesclun greens and leaf lettuce in bare spots in the
garden for fall picking. Mix in some compost before seeding and give new
seedlings a dose of liquid fish emulsion. Another option is to start some in
window boxes or containers. These can be placed within easy reach of
the kitchen, or brought indoors during hard frosts. Theyíre great,
too, if you donít have a garden or space to garden in the ground.
Other garden activities for this month include buying and planting spring
bulbs, visiting an apple orchard, making cider and apple pies, having frost
covers ready for tender flowers, and bringing houseplants indoors if they
were outside during summer. Repot them if needed.
Nardozzi is a nationally known horticulturist, author, gardening
consultant, and garden coach; gardeningwithcharlie.com).
Return to Perry's Perennial