by Charlene Burgi
September is the golden month for gardening. You might think this couldn’t be true. What is golden about witnessing vegetable gardens once laden with fruit slowing down on production and annual color getting leggy? If you look closer you will find many plants are beginning to go dormant; flowers are fading or have stopped blooming, and some plants have already lost their leaves—like the native California buckeye tree that goes dormant every August.
The picture sounds rather bleak, but this really is the golden month to get plants into the ground while the soil temperature is still warm. This temperate soil is the perfect medium for root systems to establish with minimal care on your part. This is the optimal time for planting seeds for a winter garden, selecting and planting bulbs for spring, and planting trees so they can establish their root systems before the flush of spring growth. You may not see much in the way of top growth right away, but the feeder roots are finding their way into the rich soil you prepared before planting (right?). And Mother Nature will water these plants for you this winter.
September is ideal for preparing the soil for next spring’s garden. Sheet mulch added now will break down during winter to enrich the soil for spring. The best part is the sheet mulch can inhibit weed growth. You can also plant a cover crop to fix the nitrogen in the soil. In September you can witness some phenomenal growth by planting these winter cover crops.
September is also an excellent time to prepare for winter color. My daughter is on a business trip in Germany right now. She sent an email this morning describing the delightful baskets and planters full of color at each home as she drove through the countryside and hamlets. She said red geraniums mixed with blue lobelia and petunias brightened the village homes. While lobelia and petunias are summer annuals, we can substitute these annuals with violas, calendulas and cyclamen for winter color. You can even include a few small bulbs in your planters now, such as muscari, to cheer you before we start planting for spring color. One of my favorite containers this spring included muscari and ‘Tete-a-Tete’ daffodils.
And speaking of bulbs, I just planted allium in drifts of blue and white at the ranch. The deer and rabbits left the few test plants alone that I put out last year so this might be a winning choice. I added yellow and orange fritillaria for added height in the back and will carry three types of catmint down to the struggling rabbit-ravished succulents.
News flash: I may have found a method for protecting my potatoes and shallots from whatever was eating them. The veggies are growing again after I left the fur brushings of our golden retriever around the plants. Little did Sydney realize that part of her was on duty outside as she slept soundly next to our bed.
We are approaching Labor Day. This is a day meant for relaxing. And what better way to spend the day than to attend the EcoFair at the Marin County Fairgrounds this Sunday, September 4. Join in the fun and don’t forget to stop by MMWD’s booth to say hello to Wendy, Sergio, Greg and Keith. For more information, see Keith’s blog post.
Enjoy the holiday—you earned it!