September Garden Chores


I was so busy putting together the more permanent seasonal garden guides, that I almost let the September chores post go by, and after I’d mentioned it in the newsletter, too! But just by the skin of my teeth, I am getting it ready as we go into the transition of August into September.

As I mentioned on the journal, the weather has begun to normalize with heat, humidity, and a bit more dryness, although the lawns all stayed uncommonly green this year.

The Autumnal Equinox
In the northern hemispherethe northern half of the world, the first day of the autumn season is the day when the Sun crosses the celestial equatorspot where day and night are of equal length moving southward (on September 22nd or 23rd).

Chores For September

Most trees and shrubs will put down good root systems if planted now. *Remember to trim back broken branches or top heavy plants.*Prepare storage for your summer bulbs. Once foliage has died down, lift bulbs and store in a cool dry, frost free place.*Any and all seeds from annuals, perennials, or vegetables that you want to keep. Remember that hybrids will not come true.
*Plant Madonna lilies in the early part of September. Lilies of other types all through the month.*Frost threatens but you have lots of tomatoes to ripen? If they are not too green, lay them out ( not touching) on newspaper in a cool dry place. I use my basement. They slowly ripen and I have fruits long after the outdoors plants are gone.*Keep your vegetable garden harvested and the new plantings thinned for optimum growth.
*Prime time to plant your tulips and daffodils. Those you want to force for winter bloom go into refrigeration for a bit (6-8 weeks)*Fast acting fertilizers might as well go on the shelf. Use slow acting types like bone meal for the early fall feeding.*Pears ripen best off the tree. Apples often are sweeter after first frost.
Plant radish, lettuce, spinachstrings of dried peppers and garlic braidsUse root storage bin for potatoes, etc.

Vegetable Storage Bin

I love working in the garden in this month. It seems that everything planted does well (if kept watered through those little dry spells we sometimes have), and a certain crispness enters the morning air. By afternoon, though it often heats up and feels very summery, again.

But never mind about that- just go ahead and get some of the perennials you wanted into the ground, buy and plant your bulbs (no it isn’t too early- frosts are due to come in October, just next month.) It is an ideal time to plant some shrubs and trees, if you have those on your wish list.

Zone 5 Gardening

Perennial Flowers

They can be divided if necessary, and new ones planted. I suppose you can start cleaning up the garden, but except for plants like peonies, which are healthier without dying foliage lying around the crowns, it isn’t really necessary. The caveat here is that any plant that had trouble with disease would benefit from debris clean-up as soon as possible.

Depend on the Chrysanthemums to become the stalwart centerpiece of the early fall garden, complemented by asters.

Other flowers which bloom this month?

  • Blue Mistflower, used to be named ‘Eupatorium coelestinum’ now goes by the name ‘Conoclinium coelestinum
  • Sweet autumn clematis, C. ternifloraUsually blooms late summer despite the name, but sometimes holds off for early fall.
  • Rudbeckia (yes, they are still going strong)
  • Goldenrods
  • Sedum blooms are starting to color
  • I see plenty of Ironweed,’Vernonia altissima‘ which is listed as a weed
  • Helenium
  • Heliopsis
  • Sunflowers of all types

These and some others are listed in the early fall garden guide.

Sometimes I think botanists sit around and come to the conclusion that a plant isn’t named something odd or awkward enough. It needs to be more outlandish, something hard to remember- yeah, that’s the ticket! so Eupatorium coelestinum‘ becomes Conoclinium coelestinum, and Sweet Autumn Clematis has had many name changes. Once they decided on C. maximowicziana it seems they realized they had gone too far, and now it is known as Clematis terniflora.

However, I don’t think the change of simple asters to “Symphyotrichum” has been repented of, quite yet. And all of these plants bloom in this month.

Annual Flowers

Still blooming, annuals are looking better if they got that haircut back in July, otherwise a bit ragged. I keep letting my containers get dry, don’t you do that!

Calendulas will bloom well into the late fall, and they seem to perk up about now.

Take cuttings of your pelargoniums and special impatiens or begonias if you are going to try and keep them trough the winter.

Once there is a frost that destroys the top growth, dig, dry, and store your summer bulbs such as gladioli, dahlias, elephants ears, cannas, etc. More info on how to store your bulbs, here.

Blumenrohr (Canna indica) Canna bulbs lifted in preparation for storage. Photo by Maja Dumat –

How to prepare bulbs for winter

Storing Bulbs

A light frost will probably kill the tops of the tender bulbs like dahlias, etc. Lift the bulbs, brush off the excess dirt, then in prepared boxes or shelves, store your bulbs. One way is to submerge them in peat moss; another way is to line the box with newspapers and separate layers of bulbs with more layers of newsprint. In any case, you need to check on the bulbs at intervals during the winter to see if any are mushy or too dry.

If the ground has been moist, allow the lifted bulbs to dry for a day or so, brushing off the dried dirt. When storing in peat moss, or sawdust you could lightly mist it, but remember that moisture is the enemy of stored bulbs, and could cause rot, yet over the winter they ought not get so dry they wither.

Gladiolas can be lifted and stored in mesh bags ( the ones you often buy fruit in). My mother used to store her tulip bulbs that way – she dug them in summer stored them in the bags in the garage and replanted them in the fall. I used to, but haven’t done it for years.

Lilies (Lilium longiflorum) Photo by Maja Dumat – Stored lily bulbs in sawdust shavings.

Special directions for Dahlias

Garden Work List For The Ninth Month:

  • dig and prepare flower beds for the next year
  • edging paths and borders
  • start veggie garden cleanup- keep produce harvested
  • feed lettuce crops
  • lift and divide bulbs, plant new ones
  • start shrubs from divisions
  • look for bargains on fertilizers and other garden amendments, tools, and garden gloves

It is a good time of year to make compost for garden black gold.
AKA Compost.
Read more garden chores ideas in the Garden guide for early fall, Fall gardening tips, and the past September chores, or the calendar page for this month. Sorry for any redundancy or lap-over you may find. It is all intended to simply remind you what tasks are best accomplished during this time of year, so you don’t overlook something and wish you had done it.

Warnings To Keep In Mind

While a certain amount of feeding of weak fertilizer, especially of the slow acting long lasting kind is good, forego intense doses of fast acting fertilizers on your trees, perennials and shrubs.

If you prune a spring blooming tree or shrub now, it will decrease or remove the bloom for next season.

General September Maintenance

Dividing shrubs can be done now. If you prune or disturb spring flowering shrubs, you might lose this year’s bloom, but you can determine if it is necessary or not.

Any weeding done at this time of year is a boon, diminishing the amount of plants and seeds that will persist.

This is an ideal time to dry herbs. Harvest in the morning, hang upside down to dry.

Organize your seeds, especially the ones you have saved and store them in a cool, dry, frost free place.

I admit that I have sometimes had trouble with my summer bulbs over-drying during the winter. Martha Stewart had some good tips from an expert on that: use plastic grocery bags for storage. The link is listed in the list below.

The Head Of The Year

September will yield good results for lilies planted, and for woody plants, but I wouldn’t personally take a chance on roses. Magnolias and roses are best planted in the spring.

Early Fall Resource Links


Your fall garden should be planted now, and keep those young plants watered.

Winter squash is cured for approximately one month before storage in a cool, sheltered spot.

Vegetable Garden Tips

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Ilona Erwin, author

Meet the Author


I started working on this website beginning in 1998, when it was part of "Ilona's Reflecting Pool". Since then I've branched out into a number of online endeavors and work at writing lots of content for my sites. The work on "Ilona's Garden" remains my primary site and is dedicated to home gardener's success.