September Sustainable Garden Maintenance Practices for the Southeast, Ecoregion 231

Posted by on September 1, 2017

SEPTEMBER September delights.  With the dog (and cat) days of summer behind us, September opens with cooler air and less humidity, creating a fresh scent and a sense of excitement.  The source of this excitement may be for no reason other than it is bearable to be outside once again.

Indeed, September, and throughout the fall, is an ideal time to plan and plant new garden beds to ready oneself for the next year. September is also an ideal time to enjoy what the month has to offer.

Lantana, salvias, helenium, helianthus, ruella, coneflowers, goldenrod, milkweeds, plus annuals are blooming their full heads off, especially the zinnias! One of my favorites, Phlox  paniculata‘ Shortwood’, developed by Stephanie Cohen, continues to bloom!

Deadhead: Keep your flowers blooming longer by removing faded blossoms from your cannas, roses, daisies and more. As for the seed plants, such as black-eyed Susans, phlox, and coneflower, leave the flower heads for the birds. Once the birds have picked them through, it’s time to deadhead. I actually do a dance around this; um, not literally, but I typically remove enough so the plant will continue to bloom, yet leaving enough for the birds to be nourished by the seeds.

Add a pre-emergent if you didn’t last month to keep the Poa annua germination in early spring.

Deadleaf: Many of my daylilies and iris have dying leaves. Feel free to pull or trim back the dead foliage.

Lawns: The first two weeks in September are the best times to re-seed cool-season grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass, tall fescue, turf-type fescue. Also our southern gardens will benefit from a core aeration. I have Emerald Zoysia, a warm-season grass, so not much needs to be done now.

Pruning: Resist the urge to prune shrubs that seem overgrown after a long summer showing. It’s best to wait until late spring to prune, just before the next growing season begins. Punning now could stimulate new growth that would be too tender to survive an early deep freeze. You may also be cutting off next spring’s blooms, such as azalea and  camellias.

Roses: Fear of cutting next year’s bloom is not a worry with roses, but it’s still best to wait until March. Knock Out roses can be pruned most anytime; particularly when you want to shape the shrub. All types of roses benefit from removal of diseased canes and foliage anytime.

September is the beginning of best time to plant trees and shrubs. In our area, Ecoregion 231, we can plan up to late winter, as long as the ground isn’t frozen.

Remember, too, September is a great time to plant shop! Common practice in the retail business, and it was learned through us who buy when plants are in bloom, plants that are in bloom are only put out when in bloom. No one will want to buy a goldenrod in spring; but when blooming in the fall, people are drawn to it. So to have a year-round garden, consider shopping in all seasons.

Select and pre-order your spring-blooming bulbs now while supplies are plentiful. Don’t put off today what will be gone tomorrow. The most unusual bulbs sell out fast. I can say this now because I’ve already put my in order. Try something fun such as the species tulip, Tulipa clusiana.

Harvest vegetables as needed. Most of what’s growing in your vegetable garden are annuals–tomatoes, beans, peppers, etc.  By August, they are looking a little wrung out. As plants end their production cycle, remove them from the garden; otherwise, they may attract insects and disease to the plants that are still productive.

I only every want to speak from experience; these are the fruits I grow in the Bee Better Teaching Garden. Bold comments are available now.

Apple — Malus pumila, Honey Crisp — Hasn’t fruited for me yet.

Apple — Malus domesticaNorth Pole Sentinel apple

(Crab)apple — Malus ‘Transcendent’

Blueberries — Vaccinium ashei ‘Premier’, ‘Climax’, & ‘Powder Blue’

Cherry ‘Stella’ —  Prunus avium ‘Stella’ — Hasn’t fruited for me yet.

Chokeberry — Aronia melanocarpa

Chokecherry — Prunus virginiana

Dogwood — Cornus kousa by next month, I will be harvesting the fruitKousa fruit Good Berry

Cornelian cherry — Cornus Mas

Elderberry — Sambucus cerulea

Fig — Ficus ‘Brown Turkey’ The second crop is a bumper!

Fig — ‘LSU Purple’ — Hasn’t fruited for me yet.

Goji Berry — Lyceum barbarum

Goumi Berry — Elaeagnus multiflora

Kiwi, Hardy — Actinidia arguta 

Kumquat — Fortunella japonica   Flowers in the winter for us, but doesn’t fruit; or at least it has never fruited for me. My specimen is 10 years old.

Raspberries — Ever-bearing, Rubus idaeus

May Apple — Podophyllum peltatum

Muscadines —Vitis rotundifolia, The muscidines are ripe. 

Passiflora — Passiflora incarnata 

Paw-paw — Asimina triloba In fruit now.

Pear, Barlette — Prunus communis. Mine havent fruited for me yet.

Persimmon —  Diospyros kaki ‘Fuyu’

Plum ‘Santa Rosa’ — Prunus salicina ‘Santa Rosa’

Pomegranate — Punica granatum ‘Nana’ and

Pomegranate — Punica granatum — Unknown variety, with a medium height.

Quince — Cydonia oblongas

Raspberries — Rubus spp.

Serviceberry — Amelanchier arborea

Strawberries —  Fragaria ×

Strawberry needs
September (and August) is when the cell size of spring fruit strawberry buds is determined. The more favorable the growing conditions your strawberry’s receive now, the bigger the berries will be next year.

Ensure that your strawberries get an inch of water each week. If nature doesn’t provide this, then plan to supplement with water from the spigot, well, or rain harvester.

If you didn’t fertilizer your strawberries in August, do so in September. For plants that were planted this past spring, apply 4 to 6 ounces of ammonium nitrate (33% nitrogen) or 12 to 18 ounces of 10-10-10 per 25 feet of row.

For plants in their second year of growth, increase the application rate to 6 to 8 ounces of ammonium nitrate or 18 to 24 ounces of 10-10-10 per 25 feet of row.

Spread the fertilizer uniformly in a band over the row, about 14 inches wide. Apply when the foliage is dry. Brush fertilizer off the leaves to avoid leaf burn.

In cases where the strawberries aren’t planted in rows, but rather as a garden border, simply estimate the square footage and apply the equivalent amount of fertilizer. My strawberry is 2.5 feet wide by 10 feet long, which is equivalent to 25 feet of row.

Serviceberry — Amelanchier × grandiflora ‘Autumn Brilliance’


In the absence of rain, be sure to keep your birdbaths filled.

Feeding the hummingbirds
Hummingbirds feeders aren’t necessary if you have enough plants to feed these visitors, but they are a great way to ensure you have a consistent food source for the hummers, and you can place the feeder in a location that is easy to see from your favorite chair, either inside or out.

Making hummingbird nectar
Making sugar-water nectar to fill you feeder is easy to do. Boil 4 parts water with 1 part sugar. As soon as the sugar dissolves, you can reduce the heat. It doesn’t take long; less than a minute. Let sugar water mixture cool, and fill the feeder. Store any remaining nectar in the refrigerator for up to a week. When the temperatures are hot, greater than 86º F, change the nectar water daily.:

Waterwise:  With a waterwise design, watering in the absence of rain is a breeze.  My garden at home, the Bee Better Teaching Garden was designed with waterwise principles. I have very little watering to do, and what I do have, is a choice. My boxwood collection is contained. But the watering is smart. These containers are near a watering source, so moving around a hose isn’t a big deal.

The late winter application of mulch is tuckering by now. As the leaves begin to drop either from it being dry or just an early species dropping, leave it on the ground. Unless the is diseased in anyway, these leaves add good mulch protection.

Pest control:
If you find fall webworms in your trees–hickory, walnut, birch, cherry, and crabapple, to name a few, pull them out and dump the caterpillars into a bucket of soapy water. This is a good control measure for those nests within reach. For those nest that aren’t within reach, you may have to resort to spraying. Control webworms with BTK (Bacillus thuringiensis). Apply just to the effected branches; using BTK as a broad spray will harm beneficial insects as well.

Oak Worms, Anisota peigleri: Are you walking gingerly down the garden path to avoid stepping the rather large orange/yellow-stripped oak worms? You’re in good company; they are everywhere right now. Or maybe you are trying to avoid the massive quantiles of waste pellets. On a quiet day, the pellets can be heard clattering down through the leaves and hitting the ground below. ewwwww

The Orange/Yellow striped oak worms are just one of 557 caterpillars (according to Doug Tallamy) that use our native oaks as a host plant.

As a moth, we rarely see them around, but the caterpillar stage is highly noticeable because of their ground presence and defoliation of oak trees.

The full grown caterpillars are 1 ½ to 2 inches long, black in color with orangeyellow stripes.

My friend Josh Zach, Reporter, News Radio 680 WPTF & North Carolina News Network, asked me about his Oak Worms.


As I explained to him what the pest was, the moths in the summer are also soft-bodied insects for the birds to feed their brood.  A healthy tree can re-foliate after some feeding.  If the waste is in undesired amounts, such as on pools, patios, and decks, you may want to treat, but I wouldn’t recommend it. These are a valuable food source!


Fertilizers: The leaves will begin to fall soon. Save them for natural areas. I blow mine into the areas that I mulch. The mulching mower cuts them up too. I use all the leaves that fall in the Bee Better Teaching Garden. plus I pick up from the neighbors. One neighbor in particular has a yard man who rakes and bags weekly. I all over this source. These go to the chicken run. Lots of good bugs and chrysalis in these leaves.

Weeds: There never seems to be one weed, they come in multiples, and like to hang in gangs. There’s the sedges, the spurges, the grasses, and the oxalis. There are too just many to mention, and still hope for a happy day.

Stay ahead of your weeds. if you have a problem with poa annua, annual blue grass, as I do in my Raleigh garden, now (early September) is the time to use a pre-emergent such as corn gluten.



Helen Yoest

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