The GOLDEN TIME of year IS HERE when we PLANT the flowers that bloom in spring. Yep! BELIEVE IT! All BIENNIALS and perennial seeds that you find now on the racks at your local Home Depot, should be planted now. ADVANCED gardenrs know this. They LOVE SEPTEMBER!
ALL COLD weather tolerant crops get planted now: beets, cabbage, carrots, salad, peas! And Columbine, pansies, snaps and Delphinium! These guys always get planted after the heat of summer diminishes, in late August or early SEPTEMBER. They do some starter growth in autumn, and then with a little care, will winter over and be husky in Spring and bloom like poets in April!
We don't have to tarp or greenhouse the baby plants in LosAngeles. We have no fierce freeze here in California's coastal areas but in other states, gardeners must winter over baby plants in a tent, tarped hole or greenhouse. In California, we may take a few plants inside. My baby citrus, oranges, ugli, limes, lemons in pots should not be
outside on our four or five freeze nites. Tarping them on pingpong table on south side of house might work. We'll see.
You might ask your area's oldtimers what perennials and biennials will winter over in the yard without any cover. Then, ask how they tarp or tent? Ask what tricks to use to tarp. I have heard that you dig a big long hole, throw in a half truckload of fresh hot manure, a lot of hay and green leaves and all the green, still blooming but very cold-sensitive, 'tender' morninglory vines that are ABOUT to get frozen anyway, then a foot of soil. The rotting going on down below would make such a heat that all winter long, your plants grown in the top of the hole, in a strata of soil, and carefully top-tarped so that sunlight gets in, and they will endure even prolonged freezes! It may be Illinois outside but you tell that plant that he's in California and psych him into believing it!
In Illinois or California, in the flowerbed or in the greenhouse, Glassed or tarped, Perennials and biennials can be planted in autumn, grown in winter. Perennials do some flowering for you that very first Spring but they will really dazzle in their second year. Biennials got that one shot. THAT SPRING and they fulfill!
The point is, go buy a dozen seed packets right now! Just jump in. Pick what is pretty. You will pretty much figure out how to grow them if you read the seed packages carefully and see what timing they suggest. Also, read up on that flower or vegetable in a garden mag or catalogue or book.
The books on plants will give you tricks for each plant! Depending on what kind of plant it is........... the procedure changes! If your seed packet says 'annuals', set it aside til March. These are planted after all danger of frost is gone around MARCH 21st-April 30th.
If packet or your catalogue or garden book identifies any plant as a "BIENNIAL" it can be sown spring or fall. Biennials generally live for two years. Broccoli is a biennial. I never knew this and tried for a long time to make them do their thing in one year. They fought me, insisting on going it slow and in their second year, gave me the round tops I craved to make into puffy egg-batter dipped 'broccoli rellenos' with tomato sauce.
PERENNIALS live for a lot of years. Sometimes a dozen or more. Often they grow into plants that must be separated each Spring as their clumps keep expanding. And expanding! To keep them going without separating, you have to amend with compost on top, dug in around the roots, adding soil richness to the ends of its root areas, a foot out from plant and do it often. I didn't know CYCLAMEN was a perennial, didn't handle it right in summer and lost it. They must be carried to a safe, dry shady spot all summer. Lose a lot of daffodil bulbs as they are in beds that get watered all summer. Sigh.
GOOD GARDENERS create and USE a PLANT 'NURSERY'. A space for your babies on vacation like those Cyclamen and Daffs. Like my orange trees in winter. YOU CANNOT plant babies, as tiny seeds, directly in the ground outside. Why? because snails, sow bugs are rotten! They eat everything. So get those empty, black, plastic flats at the nursery. Failing that, use wooden slat apple boxes, foam berry boxes. No holes, create some. Line with fabric so the soil won't fall through. Fill with the best soil possible. Make your own humus. Sift it through a flat to get the top few inches very friable and un-lumpy. Shade the tiny weeny ones so they don't burn in August or September heat.
Keep those babies away from predatory insects! To do that, you might try a raised seedling bench. An old junk table of some sort. Plants are happier as infants when you keep them on benches or tables. I cut a slightly warped and peelng ping pong table into FOUR SEPARATE TABLES. Then I put legs on the edges that didn't have them. That is ysed for growing seeds/flats. I covered it with a plastic tarp so water slides off the wood.
I use the ping pong table nursery in semi-shade or dappled sunlight as babies don't like full sun during Indian Summer. After the final days of heat pass, the table can go out into full sun.
Another good feature about flats on a table: Snails absolutely cannot get up there. These caracole guys have noses like beagles! They were able to scout baby seedlings at skyscraper height and get up on small baby chairs and climb apple boxes and then hide in the plant and eat their fill for weeks before I found them. Now, no invaders. TABLES for me!
When babies are six inches high, firm, amend the flower beds and set them out. If you have no freeze. Uncertain? Pot up in little pots and try a green house. You can mickey mouse them many ways. Make sure there's sun, ventillations for hot days, A buried manure pit underneath if a long winter snow is coming. Glass panes, if you collect old windows. Putting a nursery next to a basement window with some heat coming from furnace.
Now, wait. One more thing that we can do in CALIFORNIA is prune a little. PRUNING creates new growth but we don't have a freeze here, I do it. And Sept to DECMEBER I get more growth. SEPTEMBER is your last 'pruning for smaller size' opportunity until early Spring. SPRINGTIME is when you prune flowering trees, just as the buds make themselves visible. Pruning creates growth, new growth. You can prune herbaceous plants like hydrangea or fruit trees now -- to contain size, to create a rounder shape, and still have plants grow past the pruning points, doing some new branches that get sun, (which creates the blossom or fruit for next year.) The plant will go on growing post its pruning, until the freeze. THE TRUTH is, that after your fruit falls off the tree, that is when you should prune. Because then the branches that grow, the new fullness that comes will be exposed to the sun all summer and autumn and that sun on branches creates the fruit in SPRING. So PRUNING after the fruit falls, immediately after-- is your BEST pruning time, really. But there's still time to get out on your ladder and get all those fruit trees, and all those perennial bushes taken down a little.
ONE VERY LOGICAL thing to do now is gather those golden and red leaves and compost them. You can mulch with dead leaves, fine twigs and rotted manure --NOW in the September heat of Indian summer! You create a few inches of good soil on top of all your sleeping bulbs, you feed those fruit trees and create a LOT of late season growth! This is your last fertilizing opportunity. Because you don't want heavy feeding and branches growing green tips in NOVEMBER!
So, plant seeds, prune, mulch and compost! SEPTEMBER is a busy time full of opportunities that are going to make your fruiting and blossoming next year a much more spectacular event!
Oh, one more thing I do in September, October and November? COMPOST! I either create areas thruout the garden which are compost piles or take the autumn leaves and fold them in, (if there are no bulbs there,) & turn all my beds into compost piles. I clean /rake/ scratch up the dried leaves on the paths, and don't carry them off, I create compost piles right there on the beds. Paths clean, beds mounded with dried leaves. I top them with bags of manure, opened, spilling the manure over the leaves. I do not bother digging cuz I might cut bulbs in two. I keep the beds wet all autumn, unless iris are near, they hate wet when their tops are gone, the bulbs rot. But where there are no bulbs. And all winter these doughy mixtures will compost their brains out! By Spring, there will be black, fragrant humus in their place.
HARRY? WHERE ARE YOU?
I'm RIGHT HERE! JEEZ, I SHOULDA PRUNED MORE in SEPTEMBER!!!!!!!!