Donna’s Garden Tips for September

— Written By Donna Teasley and last updated by
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Cut beans and peas back to the ground after they finish bearing. Leave the roots in the ground as they will release stored nutrients back into the soil.

garden rows cleaned up for fall

Garden Cleanup

After harvesting pumpkins and winter squash, wash them with a 10% bleach solution to prevent rot. Never sit them on bare ground or concrete.

hand washing pumpkin with cloth

Wash Pumpkin

Keep the area under fruit trees clear of tall grass and weeds to discourage meadow vole damage. Under the cover of tall plant growth these animals can quickly girdle the tree, causing death.

fruit tree with weeds and grass removed around it

Weed Around Fruit Trees

Spread newly dug potatoes out to dry for a few hours before storing them in a dark, cool area. Never store in plastic bags. Also, never wash potatoes as this shortens their storage life. If dried soil clings to the tuber, clean it off with a soft, dry brush.

row of newly dug potatoes

Newly Dug Potatoes

Do not fertilize trees and shrubs. They need to start slowing down in order to prepare for winter dormancy. New growth, late in the season could be damaged by an early freeze.

hand spreading fertilizer around a tree or shrub

Do Not Fertilize in Fall

It’s time to fertilize the lawn. 10-10-10 or slow release lawn food will do. If using 10-10-10 apply 20 lbs. per 1,000 square feet.

man pushing spreader with fertilizer across lawn

Fertilize the Lawn

Get those spring bulb orders placed. It’s still a little early to plant but if you wait until later to order or purchase, you might not get the colors you want. Put them in a cool, dark place. If storing in the fridge, never put them with apples.

assorted spring bulb flowers in a garden

Spring Bulbs

Plant cover crops such as cereal rye on bare garden ground. This keeps down weeds and will add organic matter and nutrients to next year’s vegetable garden.

cover crop on bare garden

Cover Crop

Soil tests are available at the Extension Office. If the lawn or garden has struggled this growing season, a good place to start is with a soil test. It’s simple to do and only costs the price of postage.

form and box for sending in soil test

Soil Test

September is prime time for planting turf grass or over-seeding cool-season lawns. Sowing in September gives the newly planted grass plenty of time to become established before the first freeze.

hands holding grass seed over green lawn

Grass Seed

If rhododendrons didn’t have many flowers last spring, add some triple phosphate around the base of the plant this fall. It will aid in formation of blooms for next year.

bag of hi-yield triple super phosphate

Add Triple Phosphate to Rhododendrons

It’s time to check the exterior of the home for minute cracks and entrances  before lady beetles and stink bugs begin to invade to overwinter in walls and attics. Add sweeps to garage doors and exterior doors. Caulk around window frames and doors. Make sure attic vents are secure.

door of home covered in lady beetles

Seal Around Doors and Windows

Divide peonies, leaving at least 3 eyes in each division. Plant the divisions no more than 2 inches deep. If peony flowers were scarce this season, division might be the solution to your problem.

gloved hands digging up peonies to divide them

Divide Peonies

When leaves begin to fall, keep them raked. Don’t let leaves pile up on the lawn. This can damage or even kill turf grass.

rake leaned against a tree in a pile of yellow leaves

Rake Leaves

Continue to scout for insect damage on fall crops. It can happen quickly. For worm control, spinosad or carbaryl are effective.

worm on vegetable plant

Insects on Fall Crops

It’s time to plant pansies. The earlier they are set out, the better established they will be for early spring flowering.

flower bed of multi-colored pansies


Clean up and remove spent foliage from the vegetable garden. Insects and diseases can overwinter in dead plants and debris.

unpicked vegetables and dead plants left in a garden

Clean Up Vegetable Garden

Fall is a great time to control fire ants in the landscape. The 2-step bait and drench approach is most effective.

fire ant mound in edge of lawn

Control Fire Ants

Don’t prune! It’s to late to prune trees and shrubs. They don’t have time to harden off the new growth before a killing frost.

pruners clipping branch of a bush

Don’t Prune Now

Fall is a great time to control clover in the lawn. Use an herbicide containing 2,4-D such as Weed b Gon. There will be a waiting time before re-planting grass. Read the label for directions.

patch of clover in a lawn

Control Clover

Newly dug sweet potatoes need to be cured to prevent rot. Store in a warm place 80-85 degrees for 10 days or 65-75 degrees for 3 weeks. Humidity also needs to be high-85-90%. Increase humidity by stacking crates or box and covering with paper or heavy cloth. Winter storage should be done in a dark area between 55-60 degrees.

sweet potatoes stored in stacked crates

Cure Sweet Potatoes

Continue mowing the lawn as long as the grass continues to grow. It can be cut a little higher at 4 inches.

lawn mower and leaf bag in lawn


Fall and early winter are the best times to take cuttings of deciduous shrubs and trees (lose their leaves in the winter). Take 6-inch cuttings with at least 4 nodes. Apply rooting hormone and plant with 2 nodes buried. This can be done in pots and left outside or directly into the garden. Wait until leaves have fallen.

cuttings taken from shrubs and trees planted in cartons