The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

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September garden “to do” list

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Sandra Mason
State Master Gardener Coordinator

Our culture revolves around "to do" lists. However garden "to do" lists possess a special urgency since nature waits for no one. You can clean the garage (or procrastinate about cleaning the garage) any time of year. But plants will flop, drop, droop, reseed, and revolt no matter how much we scream at them, "Just wait. You're on my "to do" list."

September does allow us a second chance to do all those things we didn't do on our spring "to do" list. If you feel the urge to work in the garden but are not quite sure what to do, this reminder list should help. Keep in mind I have never met a gardener who had everything done on their "to do" list. Enjoy the process. Or learn how to reframe. As a wise gardener once told me, "Those aren't weeds. You're just creating habitat."


  • Transplant and divide most perennials.
  • Divide peonies now. Be sure to have 3-5 eyes per division. Replant so eyes are no more than 2 inches deep.
  • Replant areas with frost tolerant plants such as pansies and flowering kale.
  • Plant asters and mums for late season color. Planting on a slight mound may help to provide proper drainage to get mums through the winter.
  • Prepare houseplants for return trip indoors. Scout for insects. Thoroughly rinse leaves and container.
  • Begin 2-3 month dormancy for amaryllis. Do not water. Place in cool dark place. Dormancy begins once leaves yellow.
  • Purchase spring flowering bulbs for October planting.
  • Discontinue rose fertilization.


  • Harvest herbs such as sage and oregano by hanging clean stems upside down in dark space.
  • Pot chives, oregano, basil or rosemary for winter use indoors.


  • Mow to 2 inches and water as necessary.
  • Fertilize in early September. This is the most important application of the year.
  • Reseed bare or thin areas with improved cultivars. Consider renting a slit seeder to get seed down into soil of existing lawns
  • Reduce thatch if more than one-half inch by using core aerifiers or vertical mowers.
  • Core aerifiers can also be used to reduce soil compaction.
  • Establish turf by seed (August-September best time of year). Prepare soil properly and get good seed-to-soil contact. Select turf mixes and blends appropriate to the site and to maintenance practices. Check out University of Illinois Extension's Lawn Talk for more info


  • Continue harvesting vegetables to keep plants productive.
  • Pumpkins and winter squash should have hard rind before picking, otherwise storage may be compromised.
  • Seed bare areas with winter rye or barley for a winter cover crop.
  • Spinach and other leafy crops can be planted for a fall crop.


  • Plant most trees and shrubs. Be sure not to plant too deep. Trunk flare should be visible after planting.
  • Water trees and shrubs. Plants, especially evergreens, should be well hydrated entering winter.
  • Avoid severe pruning now if possible. Wait until February or March for most trees and shrubs. Spring bloomers should be pruned right after bloom.
  • Pick bagworms from evergreens. Pesticide sprays are not effective at this time. Spray with Btk products such as Dipel™ or Thuricide™ next year late June-early July.
  • Remove branches with fall webworm caterpillars or use Btk products within web. However if not managed, late season leaf loss from webworm seldom causes long term impact.


  • Prepare soil now for a spring planting of acid-loving blueberries or rhododendrons. A soil test will indicate how much sulfur to add to lower the pH to 4.8-5.2. Also add plenty of organic matter such as leaf compost.
  • Add plant debris from flower and vegetable areas to compost pile. Debris will decompose faster if it is first shredded or chopped. Also layer with soil or compost.
  • Join me Saturday September 12, 2015 from 9-3 for Antiques in the Park at Douglas Park in Danville.

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