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Polk County Lawn & Garden Checklist for September

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Lawn & Garden Checklist for September

For more info, help, and advice on these or other lawn and garden topics, contact your Polk County Extension Director, Scott Welborn

√ Seeding Fescue Lawns
The middle of September is the very best time to seed your fescue lawn. Make sure to use a quality seed, cover with straw (for new lawns), and water frequently to ensure germination. When the seedlings emerge they have very small, shallow roots. Keep them watered and don’t let falling leaves smother them. Use a leaf blower on low power or rake VERY gently to remove leaves. Brown patch is also very prevalent this time of year, so be sure to apply a fungicide to prevent it from killing existing grass and especially your newly seeded lawn.
√ Shrubs and Trees

Fall is a good time to plant shrubs and trees. This gives them the entire fall and some of the winter to establish a root system, which in turn will give them a better start in the spring. Be careful not to prune plants until after the first frost to avoid soft regrowth that could be killed in the cold.

√ Flowers

Plant pansies and mums this month for seasonal color. This is also a good time to divide Iris. To achieve success, you’ll need good drainage, full sun, clean cultivation (weed and grass free) and frequent dividing of large clumps. Geraniums can be overwintered in your garage or basement if the area you are keeping them in stays above freezing. Be sure to bring them in before the first frost. You can leave them in the pots or remove all the soil and place them bare root in paper bags.

√ Storing Bulbs

Five common flower garden plants–Dahlia, Canna, Caladium, Gladiolus, and Tuberous Begonia–should not overwinter outside. To save the plants, lift roots, tubers, or corms about the time of our first killing frost. They may be dug just after foliage dries. Dig deep enough so that part of the plant will not be snapped off when lifted out of the soil. Leave soil around Dahlia tubers, Canna and Caladium roots. Store bulbs in a garage or other building until soil dries and falls away from plant parts. Shake soil off roots and tubers and cut away dried stem. Immediately discard any plant parts that show soft spots or disease. Place tubers and roots in old sawdust or peat moss—in a flat box or plastic bag with holes for ventilation. Store in a dry, cool place such as a basement. Do not store on back porch or in garage; these plants cannot withstand freezing. Also, store away from danger of being eaten by mice, squirrels, etc.

√ Houseplants
Bring houseplants indoors when temperatures dip below 50°F. Give them a good bath in soapy water or spray with insecticidal soap. Move plants into partial shade for a week to condition them to lower light levels indoors.
√ Winterizing the Garden
Is there an area of your garden that you won’t be planting fall crops in? Putting your unused garden to bed for the winter can prevent many of next year’s insect and disease problems. Here are some of the ways you can prepare your garden for next year’s growing season:
  • Start by thoroughly cleaning plant debris out of the garden. Pull out all annuals that have completed their lifecycle.
  • Get your soil tested.
  • Add organic matter and turn over soil to decrease insect and disease populations.
  • Plant a cover crop of winter rye or annual rye grass to prevent soil erosion and to capture nutrients over the winter.
  • It is not uncommon for insects and diseases to be more abundant in the fall. Strive to keep fall vegetables healthy and actively growing; healthy plants are less susceptible to insects and diseases. When sufficient damage is detected, use an approved pesticide.
√ Extending the Growing Season

You can extend the season of tender vegetables by protecting them through the first early frost. In North Carolina, we often enjoy several weeks of good growing conditions after the first frost. The NC Climate Office developed the Climate Thresholds Tool to calculate the average first and last frost dates for your garden. Cover growing beds or rows with burlap or a floating row cover supported by stakes or wire to keep the material from directly touching the plants. Individual plants can be protected by using milk jugs, paper cups or water-holding walls. Most of the semi-hardy and hardy vegetables will require little or no frost protection. Semi-hardy vegetables should be harvested before a heavy freeze. Root crops such as carrots and radishes should be harvested or mulched heavily before a hard freeze. During mild winters, harvest can even continue until spring!

NOTE: The use of brand names in this publication does not imply endorsement by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service of the products or services named nor discrimination against similar products or services not mentioned.