September To-Do Garden List

It doesn’t matter where you live- September is an exciting time in the garden. In the north September brings a time of bounty of change. In the south, September often begins the new growing season, and a break from oppressive extreme summertime heat. All throughout the country, it’s a busy month. What you should be adding to your September to-do garden list is going to vary based on your location, but we’ve put together a general guide for most of us to follow when September does come.

Time to Plant!  

Yes, it’s the time to plant! This time of year brings more rainfall for most of us, and cooler temperatures that aren’t too cool. This is the perfect time to plant new perennials, shrubs, and trees into the garden. Most professional landscape designers and installers wait for fall to install new plant material too, so that’s proof that waiting to plant until fall is a good idea. The ample moisture and cooler temperatures make it easier for new plants to establish better root systems without stress. This also includes turf and lawns! Fall is the recommended time of year to seed lawns or roll new turf. Seems counter-intuitive, but in most parts of the country, the cooler wetter weather is ideal growing time for grasses. And finally, it’s also a good time to plant those spring flowering bulbs.

Bring tender plants inside

For most of us who experience a cool or downright extremely cold winter, this is now the time to start bringing things inside. If you moved your tropical plants outside for the summer, it’s time to bring them back inside. It’s also a good time to take cuttings of annuals and root them indoors if you’re so inclined. Annuals such as coleus are very at home indoors, even in darker corners of the house after rooting. Many perennial herbs also do well propagated from cuttings and grown on in a sunny window after the winter- herbs such as sage, basil, and thyme are good examples. Begonias, geraniums, impatiens, even your favorite petunias- they all root well inside and will do fine indoors throughout the winter months. Dig up any frost sensitive bulbs now such as caladiums, gladiolas (in more northern climates), and even four-o-c lock tubers. Allow them to cure on newspaper in a warm dry spot in the house before storing them in sawdust and placed in a cool dark spot through the winter.

Divide perennials!

It’s not only a great time to plant new selections, but it’s also a good time to divide established perennials! Lily-of-the-valley, daylilies, phlox, hostas, grasses and so on needs dividing every 3 or so years to keep them from getting too crowded and unkempt. Plant divisions in new places in the garden, or share with friends!


Now’s also the time to harvest up the last bits of the garden- from gathering groups of herbs to dry, to potting up chives to be grown on inside and used through the winter, it’s time to gather what’s left. Gather seeds as you wish for germinating next year. Even tree and shrub seeds are good to gather- check out the Wintersown method of germinating seeds of shrubs and trees (and native perennials). It’s also a great project to do with kids and connects you to your garden though the cold winter months- especially therapeutic for us extreme northern gardeners.

Weed and mulch

With the cooler weather and less bugs, it’s a nice time to weed and mulch the garden beds. Use this time to do a big final once-over your garden beds by pulling remaining weeds you find and adding your top layer of mulch for the season. Using chopped tree leaves makes excellent natural mulch, which is ideal for the garden. Use straw or hay to add extra cover on top of tender perennials, and in some areas to mound over hydrangeas and forsythia to insure a spring bloom. Lay mulch and plastic over empty veggie beds to enhance the soil for spring planting, and to help stifle weed growth when the weather warms. Avoid using fertilizers now, as they can encourage tender new growth that is easily damaged by cold.

Clean up

This is the time to clean up your chicken coop before winter sets in. Use a mild sterilizing solution or natural product and a brush to wipe down roosts and walls. Change the bedding in nest boxes, refresh the coop litter. Sterilize feeders and waterers with a mild bleach solution now if you haven’t done so recently (we recommend doing it weekly if you can). Gather all the used coop bedding and scoop out all of the feces, and bury them in your compost pile where the waste will safely break down.

Pruning in the fall should be kept to a minimum unless you experience storm damage. Most pruning is best saved for late winter, very early spring before the first flushes of growth. There are exceptions, such as with shrubs like lilacs, which need to be pruned right after their spring bloom. Otherwise, save the pruning for another few months.


And finally, this month and the rest of autumn is a great time to get that project done outside, or create new garden beds. If you’ve been putting off installing that new place to plant, now is the time to do so! Install a new bird feeder, and place new bird houses in their final spots now for spring babies. Think about adding a frost-free bird bath or system to your pond for winter, as this benefits wildlife, especially the birds in your area. Fill your front porch planters with hardy decorative kale, mini-pumpkins, corn stalks, and eventually spruce tips and red twig dogwood branches. Gather materials for fall wreaths!

Fall is a fun time to enjoy some harvesting, and cleaning up around the garden so that spring pops up with everything in excellent health and vigor. New projects are fun to do in the fall too. September is a great time in the garden, so enjoy! 

Fall Garden Clean Up