Late summer is my favourite planting season. Not only do I seed and transplant veggies for fall and winter, but I also take advantage of the warm soil temperature and ample moisture to expand my ornamental garden beds, planting a variety of trees, shrubs, perennials and vines. The prime planting conditions combined with the amazing deals at the local nurseries give me a jump on next spring. Plus, when planted in late summer and early autumn, these plants will have the opportunity to start sending out new roots this year, giving them a healthy head start over materials planted next May and June. Don’t be afraid to think beyond daylilies and hydrangea, as you can also take the opportunity to establish a hedge (highbush blueberries!), plant a backyard orchard or break ground on that raspberry patch you’ve been thinking about for years.
In the veggie garden, the majority of the crops are winding down for the season or have finished production, but those empty spaces can be filled with a fresh flush of cool and cold season veggies like spinach, lettuce, arugula, radishes and beets. These veggies are quick to grow from seed and thrive in the cool temperatures and moist soil of September and October. Also look for Asian greens like tatsoi, mizuna and pak choi, which can be planted now and harvested throughout autumn or sown in a cold frame for winter salads. Other cold season stars include claytonia, mache, scallions and kale (sow now for winter baby greens). If you’re not going to plant for fall and winter, fill empty beds with a cover crop like fall rye or buckwheat to naturally enrich your soil and prevent winter erosion.
September is not only a great time to plant and sow, it’s also the season for lawn repair and rejuvenation. If your grass is looking a bit tired (or crispy!) the warm days and cool nights signal the season for seeding and sodding. If you’re looking to fill in empty or thin areas of the lawn, consider renting a dethatcher or attaching a dethatching blade to your lawn mower. Yes, it will rip up the turf a bit, but it will also remove that layer of dead grass (thatch) at the soil surface where chinch bugs overwinter. Too much thatch can cause a host of problems, so an occasional dethatching is extremely beneficial. Once the lawn has been dethatched, overseed with a quality lawn seed, preferably one that is endophytic. This means that the grass is resistant to turf pests. Halifax Seed has a several excellent locally mixed lawn blends with endophytic grasses. Finally, keep the new turf watered until it has established. If more extensive lawn repair is necessary, keep in mind that September is also a great time to sod or completely seed a new lawn.
By late August, my containers, window boxes and hanging baskets are beginning to look a little tired. At this point, I pull out whatever is beyond help and refresh my containers with some autumn plants like fall mum’s, pansies, heuchera, ornamental kale or cabbage, snapdragons or grasses. A favourite combo is purple and yellow fall mum’s combined with a few Dinosaur kale plants dug up from the veggie garden. A dynamite way to add a little cool season colour to my pots.
Niki Jabbour is the author of the award winning book, The Year Round Vegetable Gardener (2012 American Horticultural Society Book Award) and the host of The Weekend Gardener radio show that airs every Sunday from 11 to 1 pm on News 95.7 FM. For more info, please visit www.nikijabbour.com or follow her on twitter at @NikiJabbour.