A Game Plan for the Garden

Things to Remember this September

by Charlie Thigpen

in the garden

Summer doesn’t officially end until September 22nd but cooler weather is definitely on its way. Schools are now in session, the autumn gladiators have hit the gridiron, and we spend our weekends cheering for our favorite team. With all the hoopla, it’s easy to forget about your yard, but now is a great time to garden. When your yard is nice and groomed you’ll want to invite family and friends over for the big game or a cookout.  Here are a few things to remember this month that will make your landscape a winner.

Field of Greens

You might not want to grow a field of greens, but putting out a few transplants of broccoli, cabbage, collards, lettuce, spinach or Swiss chard can fill your garden with healthy food. You can also plant sugar snap and snow peas, radishes and carrots. Many people forget about vegetable gardening once they’ve picked their last summer tomato but in Birmingham you can grow vegetables all winter long if you shield them properly from the cold.

Make Some Substitutions

When players get tired, coaches remove them from the game. When plants get tired, they should be pulled from the garden. Fill in the holes with colorful chrysanthemums or marigolds. If you choose chrysanthemums, purchase plants that are tightly budded or slightly showing color. If you plant mums in full bloom, they won’t last very long. Marigolds also work well in the fall garden. They come in red, yellow and orange and will take some frost. There are also many ornamental grasses that work well for plugging holes in the garden. The ornamental grasses have tawny–colored seed heads that wave in the autumn breeze.

Keep Them In-Bounds

Spring and summer blooming perennials such as daisies, daylilies, and iris can often spread a little too much and may need to be reduced and divided. Dig up the clumps using a round-point shovel or a turning fork. Separate plants into manageable clumps and cut them back, replant and water. If after dividing plants you have more than you need, spread the joy and share the surplus with family and friends.

Save Some for Next Year

Now is a great time to collect seeds from cleome, cosmos, Queen Anne’s lace, tithonia (Mexican sunflowers), sunflowers and zinnias. Place seeds in a cool, dry place for the winter then sow them in the garden the following spring. You can also save seeds from vegetables, such as beans and okra and many others.

Evaluate Your Success

In September, some of the summer blooming plants are actually at their peak. Walk around your garden and take notes and photographs of what worked in your garden, but also think about what didn’t work. By documenting your successes and failures, you’ll have a better game plan for next year’s garden.•

Charlie Thigpen  is a horticulturalist and the owner of Garden Gallery in Pepper Place.

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