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Choices for gardeners abound in September

Start thinking about your many choices among bulbs and pansies this autum. Will you go for something totally different or an old favorite such as Ultima Morpho?
Start thinking about your many choices among bulbs and pansies this autum. Will you go for something totally different or an old favorite such as Ultima Morpho? Obserer file photo

I love September. The temperature drops. The humidity lessens, and it is time to get down to some really good gardening.

Many of us have been sort of like hermit crabs for the past couple of months as the heat stifled our yen to dig and tend outdoors. But, we are free now to both think about repairs and revisions and take action.

I like to think of September as the start of the gardener’s year. Three excellent months of gardening are ahead for many kinds of activities from lawn renewal (more on that next week) to setting out trees and shrubs. Our winter, too, offers many days for getting things done, and then there is spring, which arrives with the first daffodils in late winter and stays late, until heat descends again in late May.

Part of the delight of early autumn is the choices ahead. In coming weeks, as the soil and air cool, we’ll choose pansies from a myriad of colors. It can be a tough choice. Do we go with colors that have looked so beautiful in past years and types that performed so well fall to spring.

Or do we take a little risk, choose a new color and see how we like it?

Then there are the bulbs of such range and variety that they promise a long display of bloom from late winter well into spring. This is where tough choices have to be made. Do we sink our budget and space into a grand display of daffodils or tulips. Or do we choose to make a lovely succession of color for many weeks that invites continuing interest in flower beds. More on that in coming weeks, too.

Planting new trees and shrubs is a job ideally done in October and November, but you can start looking at selections now. So many choices exist in garden centers that it is worth taking time to look and study. See what suits your taste and the space the trees or shrubs will occupy. Do not hesitate to remove a plant that is overgrown, diseased beyond saving or simply doesn’t suit.

Waiting for spring to set out woody plants such as trees and shrubs can be problematic. I have heard more than once of people who invested in these plants, set them out in May and watched them suffer, even succumb, to summer’s heat. This is because the roots were not sufficiently established to withstand the difficulties of summer. Fall planting gets roots growing well, and this continues through the winter and spring so that the plants are better established before the rigors of a Piedmont summer.

They will still have to be watered through the summer, but the risk to their well-being is much less.

Nancy Brachey: nbrachey@charlotteobserver.com

Ask Nancy

Q: My fig tree produced no figs this year. It is one-year old.

A: A fig usually takes two years, possibly longer, to bear figs. Give it time and the reward will be worth waiting for.

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