"My September To Do List," by the Whistling Gardener

A Flowering Abutilon, sometimes known as a Flowering Maple can be enjoyed from Spring until Fall.  Photo courtesy of Sunnyside Nursery.
A Flowering Abutilon, sometimes known as a Flowering Maple can be enjoyed from spring until fall. Photo courtesy of Sunnyside Nursery.

This column is being reproduced with the permission of Steve Smith, The Whistling Gardener, and owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville.

September is a glorious month in the northwest - the days are warm, the nights cool, the shadows long, and the lawns are coming alive again after their dry summer slumber.

The garden wakes back up for about six to eight weeks before it shuts down for the winter and it is an excellent time to get some serious gardening done. Here are some suggestions on how to best spend your time…

LAWNS: There is no better month than September to plant a new lawn or resurrect an existing one. Aerate, dethatch, reseed or start all over, but get it done this month. If you are unsure as to how to proceed, consider coming to our Lawn Care Class on either Saturday the 15th at 10 am or Sunday the 16th at 11am. Lawns don’t need to be vilified as repositories for evil chemicals and excess water consumption. A properly maintained turf area can, and should, be an environmental asset. Make it so in your garden.

ROSES: Roses will often bloom all the way into December, if we don’t get a hard freeze. Give them some food, prune off the spent flowers, treat for mildew and you should be rewarded for your efforts.

PERENNIALS: You can still find lots of late blooming perennials in the garden center and it’s a great time to plug up a few holes in the garden. Asters, mums, sedum Autumn Joy, toad lilies, and Japanese anemones are just a few of the great choices available right now. This is also the ideal time to dig and divide large clumps of perennials, like day lilies and irises. Always add some fertilizer and compost when you are planting.

BULBS: This is the month that spring blooming bulbs arrive at the garden center. Tulips, daffodils, crocus, hyacinths, and many other minor perennial bulbs are all available and should be planted this month and into October. I confess that there have been many years when I have planted as late as December or even (gasp) January - but don’t do as I do, but rather do as I say and plant now.

VEGGIES: There is still time to plant fall veggies like the lettuces and spinach and broccoli, but be sure that you enrich the soil with plenty of compost and fertilizer so your transplants will take off quickly. Building a cloche out of PVC pipe and plastic sheeting will also help to extend the season for you. (Come check mine out if you are unsure what to do.) Open it up in the morning and close it at night and you will be amazed at how much faster your plants will grow.

CONTAINERS: I am not quite ready to disassemble my summer containers, but if yours are looking tired then this is the time to plunge in some hardy plant combinations that will last the winter. If you have large pots, only replace the part of the soil that is full of roots. While pansies and violas are great for color, there are tons of options for colorful foliage that will look every bit as attractive during the long gray days of winter. Containers planted in September will look fabulous all the way into April or May, and that’s a pretty darn good return on your investment

September is a golden opportunity to work some serious magic in our gardens. Take advantage of the good weather and warm soils to finish up those gardening chores before winter sets in for good. By the time spring comes you will be miles ahead of the game.

Sunnyside will be hosting a free class, “Fall and Winter Lawn Care,” at two different times next weekend - Saturday, September 15, 2018, at 10:00 am and again on Sunday, September 16th, at 11:00 am.

Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville, WA, and can be reached at

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