- Keep harvesting. If you have kept up with your watering in the vegetable garden, the beans, peas, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, and zucchini will still be producing almost up until frost. (Check out my Gardening Tip on what to do with the last of the zucchinis here.)
- Keep an eye on the thermometer. Overnight temperatures this month may have some serious dips into low, single digital range. If this is in the forecast, cover the lettuce row, pick the beans, and if you cannot give good insulated protection to your tomatoes and peppers, harvest them to ripen in a cool, dark place that will not dip below freezing.
- Amend and cover crop the bare rows, or beds. You do not want the winter rains washing your valuable soil away. And you definitely want to put nutrients back into the soil for next year’s veggie growing. It is unfortunate few of us are blessed with the absolutely best soil in our gardens. This means we have to an added chore or two each year to bring our soil up to snuff. And it can be done! One chore is amending the soil with compost or manure to improve its structure and water retention. Another chore is sowing a cover crop on any bare beds because…whatever you grew in those spots has depleted the nutrient content in the soil and it must be replaced in order to grow healthy crops next season.
- Time to plant garlic for next year! September, into early October are ideal times for sowing garlic. Check out your nurseries or the farmer’s markets for healthy, flavourful bulbs.
- Fall is an excellent time to plant. With seasonal rains typically in the September forecast, this is a great month to plant those nursery acquisitions which are still in their pots. Good time to plant the odd tree or two, as well. Why? The rain will seriously cut down on your watering bill…and your time. But watch for any heat gaps. We do get wonderful Indian summers here in the Comox Valley.
- Divide and move. Spring is usually the season when gardeners are revved up and excited to make changes in their landscape design. But seriously, fall is an even better time of year. One reason, the plant has grown to full size, and oops!, it is now demanding a larger chunk of real estate. Another reason is again, the watering issue. Why not let Mother Nature be your helper? And if those hostas, grasses, black-eyed susans (Rudbeckia ), masterworts (Astrantia spp.), etc need dividing into smaller clumps…think about sharing them with a friend, or support any of your local organizations who are hosting a fund-raising fall plant sale.
- Think ahead to the spring display. Now is the time to plant those spring-flowering bulbs. Check out your local nurseries and seed catalogues for some lovely additions for your garden. No room for bulbs in your garden landscape? No problem! Fill a planter with an assortment of bulbs, starting with the tallest stemmed varieties in the lower lever, and working up the pot to the shortest stemmed flowers in the top layer, like Chionodoxa , or glory-in-the-snow, as they are also called. Once planted up, tuck your pot out of the weather until spring, but give it a bit of water once a month.
- Garden clean-up. Now is the time to prune those black-looking peony and ugly rose leaves. Botrytris (peony) and black spot (roses) are spore fungi which live in the soil. Virtually impossible to get rid of but manageable if you clean up all those nasty-looking leaves and send them to the garbage. Do not put them in your compost!
- Cutting back some of the perennials now will save some time in the spring. However, keep in mind, some perennials are over-wintering habitat for insects. Hollow-stemmed plants like fennel are hidey-holes for swallowtail butterflies. Female bumblebees love a mouse nest to sleep in through the winter, but will make do if you provide them with a heap of assorted leaves, small sticks, and other soft materials.
- Keep some seeds for the birds. If you save seeds from your favourite annuals, be sure to leave a few for the birds. The species which hang around all winter will appreciate the meals you have saved for them.
- Gather up the tender perennials. It is time to bring those houseplants back indoors. Be sure to give them a close scrutiny for pests before moving them inside. A thorough dousing of soapy water will catch the pests you cannot see. Repeat the treatment 7 to 10 days later to catch any hatching eggs. Doesn’t hurt to keep a sharp eye on the plants for a couple of weeks after you bring them inside, just to be sure.