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Master Gardener: September Gardening Chores

We’re nearing the end of summer- can the first frost be that far away? According to oldtimers, the first frost is six weeks after one first sees goldenrod in bloom.

Lawns. Apply fall pre-emergence herbicides, if needed, to control winter annuals. Seed fescue or rye so that it has enough time to develop before the onset of cold weather. Water as needed.

Trees/Shrubs. Still too early to plant trees. You may need to add acid to azalea beds after all the summer watering. Begin to slow down on watering azaleas toward month’s end to harden them off for winter. Fall planting of azaleas gives their roots time to grow and develop. Remember they are shallow-rooted - top of the rootball should be just level with the soil line or slightly higher. Always water in new transplants.

Annuals. Keep deadheading. Straggly and dying material needs to be pulled up. Think about saving plants from the garden for next year - coleus, sweet potato vine, non- hardy ferns, any tropicals, etc. Plant pansies and ornamental kale or cabbage to dress up cleared beds. Remember to dry seed you wish to store for next growing season very thoroughly, then place in moisture-proof containers in the freezer.

Bulbs. Buy bulbs now for fall planting. Dig caladiums before the foliage completely disappears or plan to buy new bulbs next spring. Check bulbs in storage for signs of mildew or rot.

Perennials. As it gets cooler, divide overcrowded perennials. Most need dividing every two to three years. With few exceptions, divide fall-blooming plants in spring, spring bloomers just after bloom and summer bloomers in early fall. Many perennials benefit from fall planting because they have time to grow some roots and get accustomed to their new location. The main reason fall plantings fail is insufficient water.

Houseplants. Start now to repot and trim plants to prepare for their trip back inside or into the greenhouse. Move only healthy plants inside. Dispose of sick looking plants. Placing plants in the shade for a few days gets them accustomed to the lower light conditions of the home. Plants should be back inside and readjusted to the indoors before central heat is turned on.

Roses. Make the last spray for black spot this month.

Vegetables. Plant turnips, mustard, spinach, lettuce and radishes until mid- September. Enjoy the last pick-from-the-vine tastes of the summer. Preserve what you can. (Enter it in the fair!) When a freeze is predicted, pick your green tomatoes.

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