The Vegetable Garden To-Do List
WOW, this year the “Dog Days of August” morphed into the “rainy days of August.” Sometimes too much a good thing becomes a challenge for even the most experienced gardener. Especially challenging this summer were the diseases in the tomato patch caused by an abnormally wet summer. One of the great attributes of gardening is that there is always a reset button, and a fall garden offers us gardeners a new gardening opportunity.
September in the Piedmont is a month that transitions into fall with hot summer days but cooling nights. It’s also a month that confronts the gardener with mixed feelings. After a long season of planting, weeding, harvesting, and battling an ever-changing list of pests, I sometimes wish that the season would just come to an end! At other times, I want to extend the growing and harvesting season into winter. But, mixed feelings or not, there are always gardening tasks to do, and here is my list for September. Let’s begin with the short version of the September To-Do List: continue harvesting vegetables, continue removing spent spring and summer crops, plant fall crops, and cover crops, and, of course, continue weeding.
Here in central Virginia, we can harvest fresh produce well into the fall and often into early winter. No matter how ragged the summer garden looks, a fall garden offers us not only a second growing season, but also a second chance to plant those early spring crops that failed in the summer heat. September in central Virginia is a continuation of fall planting season and a time to begin preparing the garden for winter by planting cover crops in vacated areas of the garden.
The following planting chart was created by using the Virginia Cooperative Extension Publication 426-331, “Fall Vegetable Gardening.”
|September 1-10||September 11-20||September 21-31|
|Lettuce, bibb||Lettuce, bibb||Lettuce, bibb|
|Lettuce, leaf||Lettuce, leaf||Lettuce, leaf|
|Winter Rye||Winter Rye||Winter Rye|
Plant garlic in our area during the month of October. Remember, many retailers quickly exhaust their inventories of the most popular varieties before October. If you haven’t purchased garlic for fall planting, time is running out. A few garden centers in our area sell garlic bulbs for fall planting, but the varieties are somewhat limited. However, an online search for “Garlic Bulbs for Sale” will bring up numerous sources. For additional information, check out the article on growing garlic in the October 2015 issue of The Garden Shed.
September is an excellent time to sow cover crops in bare areas of your garden. For additional information on cover crops, refer to the September 2015 issue of The Garden Shed.
Give your tomato plants one last feeding. Compost tea or fish emulsion should give them the extra energy they need to make that final push at the end of the season. Pinching off small green tomatoes and any new flowers will channel the plant’s energy into ripening the remaining full-size fruit.
Plant some cool-season vegetables such as radishes, spinach, kale, mustard and collards.
Collect herbs from your herb garden for freezing and drying. If you don’t have access to a dehydrator, herbs can be dried quickly in a microwave oven. Simply place the herbs between two paper towels and heat for a minute. Remove them from the oven, cool, then test to see if the leaves are crisp. If not, return them to the microwave for a few more seconds. Store in sealed jars in a dark place so they will keep their color and flavor.
Pot up chives, parsley, and other herbs, and bring them into the house to extend the growing season.
Remove any diseased plants from the garden and burn them or bag and dispose of them to prevent spreading disease to future plants. Only compost healthy plants.
Take a tour of your own vegetable garden and make notes on this year’s varieties, successes, challenges, and chores, so that you can learn for next year. Make a sketch showing the location of this year’s plants to be used next spring for rotating your crops.
Continue to weed your garden to prevent the weeds from going to seed and germinating over the winter and spring.
Remove all two-year-old canes from raspberry and blackberry plants to reduce overwintering of disease. Fertilizers containing potassium, phosphorus and magnesium or calcium can be applied but do not cultivate or irrigate at this time of the year.
Keep the strawberry patch weed free. Every weed you pull will help making weeding easier next spring.
Fall weed control around fruit trees is crucial because weeds act as hosts to overwintering insects.
Thanks for joining us in The Garden Shed — hope to see you again next month!
“Gardening by Month–September,” Missouri Botanical Garden, http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/gardens-gardening/your-garden/help-for-the-home-gardener/advice-tips-resources/gardening-by-month/september.aspx
“Monthly Horticulture Tip Sheets — Herbs, September,” Va. Coop. Ext. Albemarle/Charlottesville, https://albemarle.ext.vt.edu/content/dam/albemarle_ext_vt_edu/files/hort-tip-sheets/9-14-herbs.pdf
“Monthly Horticulture Tip Sheets — Fruit and Nuts, September,” Va. Coop. Ext. Albemarle/Charlottesville, https://albemarle.ext.vt.edu/content/dam/albemarle_ext_vt_edu/files/hort-tip-sheets/9-14-fruits-nuts.pdf