Sept. 2013 To-Do List: Western Mountains & High Plains

Susan Wells

pruning flowersIn the cool of the morning or evening, take a walk around the garden and make mental notes as to what you like, what needs changing, and what plants need replacing. Also keep picking off spent blooms until frost. Deadheading perennials not only refreshes the plant’s appearance, it also controls seed development and redirects energy from seed production to root and top growth. Deadheading annuals such as marigolds, petunias and geraniums will keep them blooming until a hard frost. Before you deadhead every faded flower in sight, be sure you know which perennials and annuals produce attractive seed heads or pods. They will add interest in the garden in winter and stand out against a blanket of snow.

Annuals

  • Take cuttings of geraniums, fuchsias, and begonias. Stick 3- to 4-inch green stem cuttings in damp perlite. Place the pots in a shaded spot, and keep soil moist. By spring, you’ll have transplants to put in the garden.
  • Start moving houseplants and other tender plants indoors so they start to acclimatize.
  • Pull annuals that are past their prime and aren’t likely to recover. Cover bare soil with mulch to deter weeds.
  • Container gardens, hanging baskets and window boxes dry out quickly and need frequent or even daily watering. They will also need to be fertilized regularly.
  • If you’re saving seeds, make sure they have thoroughly dried. Clearly label seed storage containers, not only with the name of the plant but with its growth needs, such as how much sun, water, space.

Perennials

  • Peonies are best divided and transplanted in September, if they need it. Remember:  the “eyes” must not be buried more than an inch or two beneath the soil surface.
  • Also divide and replant irises if you haven’t already. Irises should be divided if the rhizomes are closer than a couple of inches apart. Cut the foliage to a fan of about 8 inches, dig up the rhizomes, and discard rotted or damaged parts. Break plump, healthy rhizomes apart from each other and plant shallowly. Water in deeply.

Vegetables

  • Keep everything cleanly picked, especially squash if it is still producing. You will get more if you pick often.
  • Pinch off any new tomato flowers to direct energy to ripening fruit before frost.
  • Blanch tomatoes for freezing and canning by boiling them for just a few minutes and slipping off the skins.
  • Pinch off blossoms on pumpkin and winter squash vines so the plants direct their energy into existing fruits on the vines.
  • Let your last planting of annual herbs such as dill, cilantro, caraway, and chervil go to seed. The flowers will attract beneficial insects and the seeds that fall to the ground will self-sow, giving you a new crop of plants to harvest early next season.

Trees /Shrubs

  • While trees still have leaves, it is easier to notice dead branches. If dead wood is visible, prune it out at your earliest convenience. Leaving it around will attract borers and other critters.
  • Water trees during drought – especially the oldest and the youngest.
  • Refrain from feeding your roses for the rest of the season. This will enable them to slow their growth and prepare to harden up for the cold winter weather ahead.

Lawn/Turf

  • Hand pull weeds when the soil is moist to prevent them from developing seeds. If weeds have developed seed heads, do not put them in the compost pile, since most composting methods will not heat up enough to kill the seeds.
  • If possible, avoid weed and feed fertilizers. Continual use of these materials stunts the growth of turf, affects soil microbes, and is generally not strong enough to kill perennial weeds. Though it takes more time, consider hand pulling and digging weeds.
  • Core aeration is the best way to control thatch. As weather cools down, use an aeration machine that removes soil cores and breaks through the thatch layers.

Image: Shutterstock/Dmiria

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