September Song

September 5, 2013

Houseplant shopping is just one of many things to do in September.

Credit: Doreen G. Howard
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After Labor Day, I can feel and see the slowing of photosynthesis as plants wind down their season, heading towards dormancy or death. 

It’s my cue to plant spring-flowering bulbs and trees so they can establish roots to take them through winter.  And, it’s time to think houseplants, which to bring indoors and those I want to buy.  September’s silent song drives me to do things fast, before the frosts of early October.

Spring-Flowering Bulbs

Buy or order bulbs now for the best selection and plant later.  You can plant daffodils, hyacinths, lilies and tulips until the ground freezes solid. 

If you can dig a 6-inch-deep hole, you can plant.  Last year, I found tulips bulbs I forgot to plant and was able to get them in the ground after Christmas, despite a foot of snow.  They bloomed this spring.

My favorite early daffodil is Tet aTet, from Brent & Becky’s Bulbs.  Photo by Doreen G. Howard

Planting Trees—Do It Right!

Tree experts (arborists) say you only have one chance to plant a tree correctly.  And, that is in the fall.  The Davey Tree Company has developed a checklist to help select the right tree and how to plant it.  Here are a few quick tips to get you started.

  1. Identify the right tree: do you want shade, quick growth, color, screening or fragrance?  Determine what type of soil you have. Wet or dry areas are better for different species.
  2. Find the right place for the tree: look at how much sunlight the site receives.  Most trees like full sunlight, but many need shade.  Make sure the tree is away from above ground hazards like electrical wires, underground hazards like sewer pipes and far enough away from the permanent structures.  Make sure the tree will have plenty of space to grow ten, 20 or even 30 years from now.
  3. Proper planting methods: dig a hole four to five times the width of the root ball.  Plant so the tree trunk is 1/2 inch higher than the ground around it to prevent water from collecting next to the base of the trunk, which causes rot.  Water is important, though.  Newly planted trees, unless it rains, need to be watered 20 to 30 minutes a day until the ground freezes. This helps the tree establish a root system in a short time.   After planting, mulch with one to three inches of shredded hardwood or leaves.  Keep mulch an inch or two away from the tree trunk to avoid rot.

These trees that offer screening and color are nearly 30 years old.  Spacing is important when you plant.  Photo by Doreen G. Howard
 

Houseplant Savvy

National Indoor Plant Week is September 15-21, with good reason.  Now is the time to look for houseplants at garden centers.  You want plants with benefits like English ivy which drastically reduces mold indoors.  It’s a good plant for your desk at work and near your bedroom window. 

Peace lilies need little light, are easy to grow and do a terrific job of removing pollutants from indoor air. Photo courtesy of Costa Farm .

Other beneficial plants that clean the air most efficiently and produce large amounts of oxygen are peace lilies, dieffenbachia, ferns, palms and philodendrons.  All are easy-care plants, too.


Doreen Howard has written for The Old Farmer's Almanac All-Seasons Garden Guide for 15 years and is the former garden editor at Woman’s Day as well as a photographer. She has grown more than 300 varieties of heirloom edibles and flowers in the last two decades.

In stores now!

Look for Doreen's newest book, Heirloom Flavor: Yesterday's Best-Tasting Vegetables, Fruits and Herbs for Today's Cook. Find in stores everywhere including Walmart and on the Web including amazon.com.

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