Friday, September 2, 2011

September Calendar

      Hurricane Irene has damaged – if not leveled – most of our gardens and the September work ahead is not pleasant to contemplate.  Our corner of the Catskills was devastated, and the YouTube videos are painful to watch.  Our house was relatively unscathed but our friends and neighbors in low-lying areas near the furious creeks and riversides suffered terribly. 

It seems frivolous to write about ordinary garden work in such extraordinary times, but on some sunny day we will drag ourselves out of our armchairs and head back outdoors.  Gardens look to the future, and the fall cleanup and planting help us deal with the often difficult present and the loss that comes with it. 

Print the calendar, post it on your refrigerator and as the mood strikes you, head out.  September can be the most restful month in the garden, or the best month for some hard work.  It’s your call. 

Hoping for the best

WEEK ONE
This is the time to shop.  End-of-year sales at nurseries will be in full swing. Look for smaller materials; nurseries can easily hold over larger trees and shrubs. 
September is a good time to order clematis, for they are rarely shipped after mid-October.  If you plant clematis in the fall, they will get off to a robust spring start and you will surely have blooms next summer.  If planted next spring, you are likely to get only foliage.

WEEK TWO
Most perennials will welcome division now, but some definitely will not.  These include phlox, Shasta daisies, and Siberian and Japanese iris.  Don’t even try. 
If rainfall is adequate, little watering will be needed from now on.  The exception is new plantings and of course roof gardens which will need watering right up to hard frost.
Bring in pots of amaryllis that have been summering outdoors.

WEEK THREE
Trim long stems of perennial vines and tie up or train as you like. 
Cut back iris foliage to three inches.
Pot up begonias that have been blooming outdoors and cut back all stems to two inches before bringing indoors.  
Don’t let phlox go to seed or they will self-sow, reverting to their original magenta and the new seedlings will crowd out your carefully cultivated varieties.  
  
WEEK FOUR
Last call to bring houseplants indoors.                                                         
Pull out vegetable plants when all the crops have been gathered and plant a winter cover crop.  Winter rye or small grains are good in our region.
Fertilize lawns and sow seeds in thin or worn areas.                                   
This is the best time to plant daffodils, although almost everyone waits at          
least until October, and often drag their feet into November. 
You can still plant perennials, but they will have to be protected against    
the winter's alternate freezing and thawing. 
Start cutting back perennials. You can compost all but the leaves and              
stems of the peonies. 

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