September Gardening To-Do List

Summer is finally winding down. See how our editors and contributors are preparing their gardens for the cold season ahead.

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Plant Fall Annuals

Near the end of the month, I’ll plant pansies and violas. I’ll also buy bulbs before the ones I want are sold out, but I’ll wait until the temperatures cool down before planting them.—Lynn Coulter/Atlanta, Georgia

Prune Hibiscus

I'll cut back my hibiscus, which are tropical plants, and move them into some shade on the porch. This will help them make the transition indoors for the winter, where the light levels are lower. I’ll start moving houseplants that have been vacationing outdoors closer to the house, too.—Lynn Coulter

Start a Salad Garden

I’ll sow seeds to grow lettuce, spinach, arugula and radishes. I like to try lettuce varieties I’ve never grown before to keep salads delicious and interesting.—Lynn Coulter

Just Add Mulch

I’ll replenish the mulch around my mailbox; the mulch that’s there now has broken down and looks ugly. I’ll also start mulching around my strawberries to carry them through the cold weather.—Lynn Coulter

Relocate Hydrangeas

As we get closer to October, I’ll transplant some small hydrangeas that need more shade.—Lynn Coulter

Cure Squash

I cure my winter squash so they will store well into winter. To cure, I place squash on elevated screens in a sunny spot for 10 days. If nights threaten frost, I carry squash indoors for the night.—Julie Martens/Frostburg, Maryland

Create a Barrier

My yard receives nightly visits from deer, so I drape plastic netting over perennials that stay colorful (like heuchera) and cool-season edibles. As other leaves disappear, “my” deer feast on anything they can find, even stuff they won’t normally touch.—Julie Martens

Don't Rake, Mow!

Forget raking leaves—mow over them! By attaching the grass catcher bag to the mower, I collect a ready supply of chopped leaves that I layer into the compost pile or use as mulch on the veggie garden.—Julie Martens

Watch for Weeds

Deal with cool-season weeds in the lawn and garden areas. Spot spray young dandelions that sprout from summer seeds.—Julie Martens

Check Home Exterior

I inspect the house for cracks and openings that give critters access and plug any I find. I also patrol my attic for stinkbugs that have found a way in. I knock them into a jar of soapy water.—Julie Martens

Spray Weeds

I treat hard-to-eliminate perennial weeds, like curly dock or burdock, by clipping all but a few leaves and then spraying the plant with herbicide. In fall, plants transport nutrients from leaves to roots, so spraying now can kill these plants at the root.—Julie Martens

Pick Herbs

I take a last picking of any herbs I want to dry, like a selection of mints for winter tea.—Julie Martens

Clean the Vegetable Garden

Clean up the veggie patch, pulling spent crops. Be sure to gather all plant debris—stem, leaf and fruit bits. Don’t compost diseased plants—discard them.—Julie Martens

Divide and Fertilize

September is a good time to divide irises and daylilies, fertilize fescue lawns and start cool-season vegetable seedlings.—Danny Flanders/Atlanta, Georgia

Add Compost

Incorporate compost on winter vegetable beds.—Mark and Debbie Wolfe/Atlanta, Georgia

Build a PVC Pipe Greenhouse

We'll construct a PVC greenhouse framework for winter veggies.—Mark and Debbie Wolfe

Plant Cool-Weather Veggies

Plant another wave of cold-hardy vegetables.—Mark and Debbie Wolfe

Plant Cover Crops

Plant cover crops (peas, oats, annual rye grass and crimson clover) on the fallow winter garden beds.—Mark and Debbie Wolfe

Burn Infested Debris

Burn garden debris that is infested with bugs.—Mark and Debbie Wolfe

Tool Maintenance

We'll change the oil in the rototiller and sharpen the tines.—Mark and Debbie Wolfe

Fertilize the Lawn

I'll apply organic chicken fertilizer to the lawn.—Melissa Caughey/Osterville, Massachusetts

Plant Fall Containers

I will switch out and replant garden containers with mums and cabbages.—Melissa Caughey

Reseed the Lawn

I'll reseed bare patches in the lawn.—Melissa Caughey

Check on the Bees

Check on the beehives' honey production and storage for winter.—Melissa Caughey

Harvest Squash

I'll harvest late summer squash and gourds.—Melissa Caughey

Chop Firewood

Cut, split and store firewood for the winter.—Melissa Caughey

Start Raking

Raking leaves begins each weekend.—Melissa Caughey

Enjoy Fall Fun

I'll take a leaf peeping trip and go apple-picking.—Melissa Caughey

Cure Firewood

Firewood burns hotter and more efficiently, with less popping and smoking, if split and allowed to “cure” in a dry place for a few weeks or months.—Felder Rushing/Jackson, Mississippi

Plant Cover Crops

Bypass the compost pile and protect your soil over the winter with an organic “green manure”—sow seeds of vetch, clover or other cool-season “cover crops” to be cut and dug into your soil next spring.—Felder Rushing

Grow Lettuce

Lettuces are as colorful as they are nutritious—and taste sweeter after a light frost. Mix and sow seed of different varieties into the garden, flower bed or pots on your patio table.—Felder Rushing

Plant Goldenrod

No one is allergic to goldenrod, one of our country’s showiest fall wildflowers. Work some into flower arrangements, and leave some to dry in place to let small songbirds feast on its tiny seeds.—Felder Rushing

Feed Your Lawn

Pretty fall leaves feed the soil naturally if simply mowed into the lawn and flower beds. Do this as long as you can, before they get too thick to cut up.—Felder Rushing

Freeze Bulbs

For better, more uniform flowering next spring, prechill tulip bulbs in the ‘fridge crisper about 5 or 6 weeks before planting.—Felder Rushing

Pick Green Tomatoes

As the season closes, the tomatoes that won’t ripen on the vine can be harvested to ripen indoors or used in recipes.—Mick Telkamp/Raleigh, North Carolina

Clean the Grill

Even if you use the grill all year long, September is a great time to clean the grates and give the grill a tune-up after heavy summer use.—Mick Telkamp.

Freeze Eggs

The chickens will start laying fewer eggs as the days get shorter. Freezing eggs while production is still high ensures we’ll have plenty on hand for holiday baking.—Mick Telkamp

Freeze Late-Summer Crops

I tend to do my canning early in the season and freeze a little later to make the most of limited freezer space. Corn, beans and peppers are good late season candidates for freezing.—Mick Telkamp

Clean The Patio

These crazy summer rains have washed a pile of mulch right onto my balcony. I'll remove my annuals, repot any plants that need it and then sweep and spray off the patio.—Jessica Yonker/Atlanta, Georgia

Plant Coneflowers

After seeing my tomato plant perform pretty well this summer, I'm thinking my patio receives more light than I originally thought. I love coneflowers and Georgia's climate should keep them blooming well into fall, so I'll plant one in a container to see how it does.—Jessica Yonker

Planting Bulbs

I won't be left out this time: I'll buy spring-flowering bulbs towards the end of the month and wait for the weather to cool down before planting them in pots; I'm thinking tulips and lots of them.—Jessica Yonker

Replenish Raised Bed Soil

I'll be replenishing my raised beds with rich organic soil and compost to provide a good foundation for winter crops of lettuces, kale, collards and more.—Felicia Feaster, Atlanta/Georgia

Where paint has begun to chip or air is infiltrating my 1930 bungalow, I will paint and repair to keep damage and cold air leakage—and damage to indoor plants kept close to the light—to a minimum.—Felicia Feaster

Lay a Pathway

It's time for me to face facts: some of my front yard grass will never grow back, especially in well-trod areas. As a remedy I plan to install a path of stepping stones leading to my side and back yard to cover those ugly dead patches with something a little nicer to look at.—Felicia Feaster

Pick Apples!

Every fall I swear I'll do it, but this year it's going to happen. I'll find the best apple picking destination near Atlanta and come home with apples for pies, applesauce and cider.—Felicia Feaster

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