Green Thumb – Fall Checklist

As we enter September and October, we look forward to harvest and a beautiful fall season. We must also realize that during these two months there will be work ahead as we close up our home gardens and landscapes for the winter.

September is the prime time to plant trees.

Trees for consideration that especially provide dramatic fall color and do well in our area include: dogwood, gingko, Japanese maple, red oak, river birch and sugar maple.

Is winter salt application on the roads and streets a problem where you live? Salt can ruin trees preventing their ability to store water and nutrients.

Good news! White oak, hickory, serviceberry and honey locust are all salt tolerant. Creeping juniper and Mugo pine can provide you with salt resistant evergreen options.

Newly planted trees, shrubs and evergreens should be watered regularly until the ground freezes.

Annuals/Perennials provide fall color and should be deadheaded.   

Annuals and perennials are major players when it comes to revitalizing your containers and flower gardens for the autumn months.

Many of the annual plants actually prefer the temperatures of September and October. Snapdragons, sweet peas, larkspur, violas and pansies will all come back to life with new growth and flowers as the cooler weather arrives.

Deadheading of both annuals and perennials should continue during these months.

Roses will need winter protection but not until November when the ground is frozen.

Mid-September is the preferred time to fertilize lawns.

Moderate temperatures this month, cool nights and adequate rainfall will promote good grass growth. Organic or synthetic fertilizer with a 3-1-2 or a 4-1-2 ratio is recommended.

October is the best month to plant spring-blooming bulbs.

One of the most important activities for the fall months is the selection, planting and storing of bulbs. Final selection of spring blooming bulbs should take place in September so you are ready to plant bulbs in October.

Mid-to-late October is the time to concentrate on tender bulbs such as dahlias, cannas, tuberous begonias and caladiums. They can be carefully lifted with a pitchfork, dried and stored in peat moss at 40 to 50 degrees for the winter.

Fruits, vegetables and herbs provide us with an abundance of fall produce.

Ever bearing raspberry bushes will be producing their fall crop on the top half of the canes. After harvesting the berries, prune out the top half of these plants.

Everyone’s favorite, pumpkins, should now be ready to be harvested before a killing frost.

Herbs can be cut back and brought indoors to use fresh or dried.

Dead plant material should be removed from the garden and composted. Houseplants and cuttings from favorite outside plants can be brought indoors before the first anticipated frost date of Oct. 15.

All plants should be carefully monitored for disease or insects before entering the house.

Well, there it is. As you can see, we will be very busy during September and October. When our work is finished, our plants will take over as they actively work through the winter months growing underground preparing for spring. A winning team effort between gardeners and plants should make for a very successful 2019 gardening season.

Barb Lindholm – University of Illinois Extension, DeKalb County Master Gardener