Fall mums right from the garden are great for tailgate bouquets and indoor arrangements.

Fall mums right from the garden are great for tailgate bouquets and indoor arrangements.

September in New York is very different from September in Texas! Some gardeners are already bundling up the garden for frost, while others continue to battle summer heat. Use these tips (based on the USDA hardiness zones) as suggestions only, tailoring them to your specific climate.

If you live in zones 3 to 5

To Do in the Vegetable Garden

Continue to harvest any vegetables still producing, and bring in unripe vegetables as temperatures drop. Some can finish ripening on a sunny windowsill.

Direct-sow micro-greens and quick-finishing lettuce seeds.

Ready in just a couple weeks, micro greens are a great compromise between sprouts and baby greens!

Ready in just a couple weeks, micro greens are a great compromise between sprouts and baby greens!

In zone 5, consider building an elevated garden bed and transplanting seedlings of quick-finishing and/or frost-tolerant cool-season crops such as radishes, lettuce, spinach, collards, mustard greens, chives, and bunching onions.

To Do in the Flower Garden

Order bulbs, perennials, climbers, shrubs, and trees for fall planting. When they arrive, let them rest for a day or two in shade with plenty of water, then transplant them quickly into the garden.

Prune any roses you have not already prepared for winter, and mulch heavily around the shrubs to keep the roots from heaving in changing weather.

If you are saving seeds of any growing plants, check the paper bags daily by giving them a slight shake. When you hear rattling, you know the seeds have dropped! Transfer the seeds from the bags into sealable plastic bags, old film canisters, or small recycled jars with secure lids. Remember to label them, and store them in a cool, dry place.

It's Pansy time!

It’s Pansy time!

Check any annual plants you are leaving to self-sow in the garden. If you can tell that the seeds have dropped, carefully remove the spent plants and mulch the area to protect the new-fallen seeds from hungry birds, leaf blowers, and foot traffic.

Transplant any cool-season flowers and ornamentals sown indoors in late summer.

To Do in the Herb Garden

Harvest herbs for drying and grinding into spices. It may be simpler to cut the entire plant.

Take cuttings of any herbs you want to root and grow under plant lights this winter. Basil, lavender, marjoram, spearmint, oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme all root easily from cuttings.

Severely prune perennial herbs (lavender, sage, rosemary, oregano, thyme) to overwinter in the garden.

To Do in the Indoor Garden

Bring any saved Amaryllis bulbs out of dormancy by repotting them in fresh potting soil, watering lightly, and placing them in a bright window.

Time your Paperwhites to bloom indoors over the holidays!

Time your Paperwhites to bloom indoors over the holidays!

Order bulbs for forcing indoors in winter, such as Paperwhites, Amaryllis, and Hyacinths.

Order Countertop Mushroom Kits.

Take cuttings of any annual plant you want to root and grow under plant lights this winter. Annual Geraniums (Pelargonium), Begonia, Periwinkle, Sweet Potato Vine, Impatiens, Coleus, and Alternanthera are all good choices.

Check any cut flower and foliage stems you have been drying for everlastings. Trim the stems and either begin arranging them or give the drying process additional time.

Sow seeds indoors of kitchen herbs for winter.

To Do in the Whole Garden

Don't let a freak early frost nip your fall crops! Set up Easy Tunnels now!

Don’t let a freak early frost nip your fall crops! Set up Easy Tunnels now!

Reduce or discontinue regular watering of trees, shrubs, roses, and perennials to prepare for winter.

Place Easy Tunnels or row covers over any plants needing frost protection.

Mulch tender plants.

Dig holes and prepare planting sites for any bulbs and plants to be received in fall.

Aerate the lawn, and fertilize for cool weather.

Clear space in the composter for fall leaves (and/or begin raking them). If your composter is full and not quite ready, spread the compost thinly onto an empty section of garden and cover it with a tarp, securing the edges of the tarp with bricks or rocks. It will “cook” thoroughly in fall and winter.

Consider building a lasagna garden for rich soil next spring. Here’s how to do it:
1. Choose your area. It can have grass, weeds, dusty soil, or any other conditions as long as it is drainable (not cement).
2. Place cardboard and/or newspaper a few inches high right on top of the grass, weeds, or soil, without clearing or weeding.
3. Water the cardboard and/or newspaper thoroughly.
4. Place dead leaves and/or paper from your shredder a few inches high on top of the wet cardboard and newspaper.
5. Place vegetable matter, grass clippings, coffee grounds, eggshells, and other “vegetative” or green stuff on top of the dead leaves and shredded paper. Make this layer just an inch or so thick.
6. Repeat the 3 layers until you have a 2-foot-high bed or have run out of materials.
7. Cover with a biodegradable mulch such as more dead leaves, bark, straw, pine needles, or even grass clippings. If you have none of these left, an old tarp, shower curtain, or other cover will work.
8. Let snow and ice blanket the area in winter. In spring, brush aside the mulch and you will find rich, loose soil, ready to plant out!

If you live in zones 6 to 8

To Do in the Vegetable Garden

Broccoli can be harvested several times during the cool weather!

Broccoli can be harvested several times during the cool weather!

Continue harvesting vegetable crops, tossing the spent plants into the compost pile or, in the case of beans, peas, and other legumes, tilling them right back into the vegetable patch to build the soil for spring.

Direct-sow Brassica family (cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, pak choi) seeds into the sunny garden.

Direct-sow seeds of frost-tolerant vegetables such as collard and mustard greens.

Order garlic for fall planting.

In zone 8, sow cover crops. Remember to add Nature’s Aid for even better soil building!

In zones 7 and 8, direct-sow radishes and lettuce for a quick fall crop.

You will be so glad you grew these charming autumn fruits!

You will be so glad you grew these charming autumn fruits!

In zone 6, direct-sow micro-greens and radishes for a quick fall crop.

If you grew gourds this year, harvest them by mid-September to give them time to dry out before first frost.

To Do in the Flower Garden

Order bulbs, perennials, climbers, shrubs, and trees for fall planting.

A few weeks before the first anticipated frost date in your area, prune back your roses to prevent winter damage. Clear any debris from the bed or border, and mulch heavily for winter protection.

Harvest flowers for drying as everlastings for indoor arrangements.

Direct-sow perennial seeds for germination in spring.

Echinacea is one of many perennials to start from seed this fall. It will sprout in spring!

Echinacea is one of many perennials to start from seed this fall. It will sprout in spring!

If you wish to collect seeds of any plants you are growing, tie a small paper bag over the entire flowerhead just as the blooms begin to pass. Check the bag every few days by giving it a slight shake. When it rattles, the seeds have dropped and you can remove the bag and store the seeds. Be sure to label them!

If you wish to let any plants self-sow (drop their seed to germinate in spring) where they are in the garden, clear away mulch and garden debris around the plants and watch as the flowers begin to pass. When you are certain the seeds have fallen, apply a new layer of mulch to protect the seeds from birds, leaf blowers, and washout. (Butterfly Weed, Black-eyed Susan, Chocolate Flower, Echinacea paradoxa, Verbena bonariensis are all good candidates.)

In zone 6, dig up any tender plants that have a bulb or tuber you can store indoors during winter and replant next spring. (Four o’Clock, Dahlia, Canna, Calla, Begonia, and Caladium are good candidates.)

In zones 6 and 7, transplant any cool-season flowers and ornamentals sown indoors in late summer.

In zone 8, sow seeds of cool-season flowers and ornamentals in the Bio Dome for transplant when the cool fall weather arrives.

To Do in the Herb Garden

Cut the whole basil plant and harvest, or take cuttings to grow indoors during winter.

Cut the whole basil plant and harvest, or take cuttings to grow indoors during winter.

Continue to harvest herbs for drying and grinding into spices. Where cool weather has already arrived, cut the entire plant rather than harvesting leaf by leaf.

Take cuttings of any herbs you want to root and grow under plant lights this winter. Basil, lavender, marjoram, spearmint, oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme all root easily from cuttings.

Severely prune perennial herbs (lavender, sage, rosemary, oregano, thyme) to overwinter in the garden.

To Do in the Indoor Garden

Bring any saved Amaryllis bulbs out of dormancy by repotting them in fresh potting soil, watering lightly, and placing them in a bright window.

Order bulbs for forcing indoors in winter, such as Paperwhites, Amaryllis, and Hyacinths.

Order Countertop Mushroom Kits.

Bring any potted plants you have summered outdoors into a cooler or shadier location, as a way of preparing them for returning indoors when the cold weather arrives. Trim the plants and clean out the containers before bringing them indoors.

Can't bear to say goodbye to your Coleus? Take cuttings now and enjoy them next year, too!

Can’t bear to say goodbye to your Coleus? Take cuttings now and enjoy them next year, too!

Take cuttings of any annual plant you want to root and grow under plant lights this winter. Annual Geraniums (Pelargonium), Begonia, Periwinkle, Sweet Potato Vine, Impatiens, Coleus, and Alternanthera are all good choices.

Sow seeds indoors of kitchen herbs for winter, and transplant seedlings from the Bio Dome into containers for kitchen windowsill gardens.

To Do in the Whole Garden

In zone 6, reduce regular watering of trees, shrubs, roses, and perennials to prepare for winter.

In zone 6, place Easy Tunnels or row covers over any plants needing frost protection.

Mulch tender plants.

Clear garden debris as annual plants pass and leaves begin to fall.

Add some new tulips as well as other spring-blooming bulbs to the garden this fall!

Add some new tulips as well as other spring-blooming bulbs to the garden this fall!

In zones 6 and 7, dig holes and prepare planting sites for any bulbs and plants to be received in fall.

Aerate the lawn, and fertilize for cool weather.

Clear space in the composter for fall leaves. If your composter is full and not quite ready, spread the unfinished compost thinly onto an empty section of garden and cover it with a tarp (to keep animals out), securing the edges of the tarp with bricks or rocks. It will “cook” thoroughly in fall and winter.

If you have grown cover crops or legumes over the summer for soil building, till them back into the garden as they mature.

Consider building a lasagna garden for rich soil next spring. Here’s how to do it:
1. Choose your area. It can have grass, weeds, dusty soil, or any other conditions as long as it is drainable (not cement).
2. Place cardboard and/or newspaper a few inches high right on top of the grass, weeds, or soil, without clearing or weeding.
3. Water the cardboard and/or newspaper thoroughly.
4. Place dead leaves and/or paper from your shredder a few inches high on top of the wet cardboard and newspaper.
5. Place vegetable matter, grass clippings, coffee grounds, eggshells, and other “vegetative” or green stuff on top of the dead leaves and shredded paper. Make this layer just an inch or so thick.
6. Repeat the 3 layers until you have a 2-foot-high bed or have run out of materials.
7. Cover with a biodegradable mulch such as more dead leaves, bark, straw, pine needles, or even grass clippings. If you have none of these left, an old tarp, shower curtain, or other cover will work.
8. Let snow and ice blanket the area in winter. In spring, brush aside the mulch and you will find rich, loose soil, ready to plant out!

About Sappho Charney

Sappho Charney is a garden writer living in Lubbock, Texas.

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