September House & Garden Chores

September 3, 2013

SEPTEMBER is my “get ready for winter” month. It’s time to divide and reset certain perennials, to order and plant bulbs, and to acclimate vacationing houseplants for their return to indoor life. Feeling energetic? Good. Because I plan to sip a martini while you do all of the work:


Bulbs. In Kevin-land, it’s impossible to have too many of these. To obtain the best varieties (and the best deals!), do what I do, and order directly from online bulb-specialists. My favorite bulbs for planting indoors and out.

Iris. Divide and reset crowded clumps, but remember to keep rhizome tops exposed to sunlight and air.

Lilies. Remove faded flowers, but don’t clip foliage until it yellows. I hope your lily patch hasn’t been invaded by this dreadful insect.

Peony. Divide and transplant any poor-blooming old plants, or set out new ones this month. They need sun, good drainage and only two to three inches of soil over the crowns.

Roses. Keep deadheading, but stop feeding. They need to prepare themselves for winter dormancy — not new growth.

And here’s a question for you: How’d your roses perform over summer? Mine, pictured above, were kinda…pathetic. I blame the weather. Two hail storms and three monsoons does not a happy rose garden make.


Broccoli. If you’d like to freeze your autumn harvest, follow these directions.

And don’t forget to make this elegant-but-easy Timbale of Broccoli. It makes a swoon-worthy first course, and you can serve it hot, warm, or cold.

Carrots. Harvest what you need; leave the rest in the ground over winter. At the first spring thaw you’ll have some of the sweetest treats in the world. I speak from experience.

Salad Greens. Continue sowing until October 1. If a sudden hard frost is predicted, and you don’t have a proper row-cover, just throw black silk sheet over the crop.

No black silk sheets?

Blue (or white) percale will do.

Onions. Harvest, cure and store according to these directions.

Potatoes. Although my potato vines have died back, I certainly won’t harvest the crop until really cool weather arrives (usually the end of October). This way my cellar will be cold, too, and thus better suited for potato-storage. Tubers only keep well in quarters which are dark, humid, and chilly (35-40 degrees F.). How I plant, grow, harvest, and store potatoes.

Tomatoes. To avoid the ravages of late blight, frost, or a severe storm, pick mature fruits while they are still green, and let them ripen in paper bags indoors. I find that a banana placed in each bag really speeds things up.

Herbs. Not sure how to freeze or store your garden’s bounty? I handle matters this way.


Vacationing Houseplants. Gradually condition these to indoor life before nights get cold. By Labor Day, I move mine to the porch where there is less light than in the open and they stay there for two weeks. Prior to their coming in, pots should be scrubbed, foliage cleansed with a firm blast of water, and both pot and plant sprayed with a good insecticide. (If you don’t wish to use insecticide, dislodge pests with a strong spray of water.) This way, plants will be in a clean condition and no pest epidemics will start. Indoors, keep windows open day and night to provide plenty of fresh air through the first weeks. Then there should be a minimum of leaf-drop and general discontent with the home environment.

Make a Window Garden! For the decorative display and easy maintenance of houseplants, you can’t beat a window garden. It took me less than 30 minutes to outfit the (ordinary) window in my upstairs bath (pictured above) for the happy containment of my flowering friends. Story and pictures.

Geraniums (Pelargoniums). I prepare mine for winter-bloom this way.

Petunias, Wax Begonias, Impatiens. Take cuttings now, and root them in pots of good soil. Brought indoors before frost, these tender annuals will provide cheerful bloom during the dark winter months. The how-to.

Amaryllis. Induce dormancy the first week in September. To do this, lay the pot on its side and let the soil dry out. Remove the foliage after it turns yellow and becomes loose, and then bring the plant indoors to a dark and cool place. Give water not more than once every three weeks during the winter rest. Need more details? See my Amaryllis Growing Guide.

Clean Chimneys, & Order Firewood. If you have a fireplace, have the chimney inspected and cleaned. Order your supply of seasoned firewood, too.

Clean Windows — Inside & Out. If, in winter, you want sunlight to enter your home unhindered by grime (I certainly do, and so do my houseplants), you’ll have to perform this odious job. I clean my 57 (ancient) windows this way.

Well. You must be exhausted by now. I know that Lily the Beagle grew weary just from watching you work.

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Related Posts:
African Violets: How to Achieve Constant Bloom
Flower Arranging 101: Formal Beauty from Common Garden Flowers
Housekeeping 101: Cleaning the “Master” Bedroom


  1. Shannon A says:


    I adore your blog and have learned so much from you about gardening! You have inspired me in many ways. I have two basset hounds who would just adore Lily the Beagle.

    A question – I have 3 heirloom tomato plants in a raised bed that are still producing fruit, despite being hit quite heavily by (what I think is) blight. The fruits still look good and the tops of the plants still are green and lush, but the bottoms of the plants look awful. This is my first time growing tomatoes, so… do I a). pull the green fruits I have to allow them to ripen indoors and then yank the plants? b). drink a cocktail, ride out the season until the plants die completely? c). none of the above? d). drink two cocktails? PS — I’m in Raleigh, NC (zone 7b).

  2. Hi Shannon A – As long as the fruit looks healthy, and it is not in danger of critter or frost damage, I’d leave it on the vine. And then I’d consume two cocktails to celebrate that a decision of monumental proportion has been made. (Lily sends her warmest regards to your two basset hounds.)

  3. Tracy says:

    Kevin, you are truly my not-so-guilty pleasure. Throughout my work day, I take tiny breaks to sneak outside to stake this, cut back that, water those, clip a few of these. But….every single day (well, the days that you post anyway), I wait as long as I can hold out, then click on your blog.

    Like enjoying a piece of very good chocolate at the end of a savory meal, reading your blog is pure joy for me. I love your content, sense of gentle (and at times, quite sly) sense of humor, Lily the Beagle, the incredibly straightforward and practical tips and suggestions, the new ideas I’ve just never seen before (even after twenty-plus years of pretty hardcore gardening) and the friendly and unselfconscious tone with which you write. Just terrific.

    Please don’t ever stop. My only suggestion, my only criticism, my only pursed-lipped whine….is that you don’t post twice a day. Oh, fine.

    Best to you,


  4. badger gardener says:

    Kevin, do you start feeding your petunia cuttings right away or do you wait until you bring them inside?

  5. Tracy – You are too kind. Thank you.

    gadger gardener – After they grow roots, I feed my petunia cuttings with every watering. Two of the three cuttings I potted up on July 24 have in fact rooted. One failed, but that’s okay. How’d yours do?

  6. badger gardener says:

    I potted mine sometime in early August and had the same results. Two of the three are showing new growth and one failed. New growth means they are rooted, right? I’ll start feeding the success stories.

  7. Ardis says:

    Good morning Kevin! My roses did fairly well this summer, other than the deer munching on them in the middle of the night a couple of times. My fault, if I don’t keep up on the spraying Liquid Fence, they treat my yard like their personal salad bar. Grrrrrrr. I did not know you could keep carrots in ground all winter, I’m going to try that! Thanks for all the great info and humor each week! I always look forward to your post!

  8. Lori G. says:

    That’s quite a list. I’d better get busy…

  9. Rebeka says:


    A month ago we have moved into a house in Toronto, it has a lawn and a back yard with perennials. I am new in North America. I come from Asia and lived most of my life there except few years in Europe and Africa.

    I like your blogs, your beautiful garden and the majestic house. AMAZING! and your recipes are awesome! I already tried a few. I am not familiar with some of the herbs like Tarragon. I looked for it in every store I have been in last weeks ..yet no luck. In my garden I have thyme, rose merry and some other herbs as the house was lived by Italians for a long time.

    I wan to plant bulbs and other fall plants. I am learning the names and ‘how to do’….
    Your blogs, pictures and news letter are big inspirations. Thank you so much!


  10. Hi Rebeka – So glad you enjoy this (insane!) website. If you can’t find fresh tarragon, do what I do, and buy the dried version. It should be available in all major supermarkets.

  11. Carol DeWald says:

    Thanks so much for your fantastic blog! I just love perusing through it to see what wonderful new recipe with delicious looking photos you’ll give us! And the gardening tips are so appreciated! I’ve lived in the great NW for over 17 years now where we are blessed with being able to grow a huge variety of fantastic plants, so I’ve become an avid gardener! I save every one of your blogs for future reference! I’m excited to try your milk bottle greenhouses this winter–thanks for putting your instructions in your blog again!

  12. Hoosier John says:

    I would like to offer a suggestion to you and any of your readers who might have a problem with scale, white flies, or other pests on their indoor plants during the winter. Your advice to spray the pots and plants with Raid was spot on, but by late winter, some plants (like coleus and ferns) are very susceptible to destructive pests that can do great damage in short order! I treat all of my indoor plants (including overwintering annuals) with Bayer 12 Month Tree & Shrub Protect & Feed systemic insecticide. It’s an incredibly inexpensive, easy-to-apply, once a year treatment. Until last year, it wasn’t recommended for indoor potted plants, but many gardeners, such as myself, have used it for years with great success. Just mix a little (according to directions) with water and pour on the soil. That’s it! And, the protection lasts for a year! I’ve over-wintered dozens of coleus cuttings (over 18 varieties) with nary a pest for years, saving me a bundle of money in the spring. The active ingredient is Imidacloprid which, while not strictly organic, is relatively benign. However, I don’t use it on any blooming shrubs or flowers outside to be safe protecting bees and butterflies. It’s a real help with my indoor plants though. You can find this Bayer product at big box stores and garden centers.

  13. Kaye M. says:

    I’d like to try your method for leaving carrots in the ground over winter. Do I cut the tops off? Do I need to cover them with mulch? Thanks for your suggestions!

  14. Catherine says:

    Hi Kevin, Could you comment on what to do about bleeding hearts? I have 2 clumps that are lovely but overgrowing their bed so need to divide. About 3 weeks ago I cut them back because the foliage was yellowed and fading. Is this a good time to tackle splitting the clumps, or is there a more-ideal time, like late spring?

    Love trying your recipes. I stocked up on biscuit dough to make sure I could throw together a tomato pie at a moment’s notice, for guests or when the mood struck. Yum, you’re right it’s a winner!

  15. Beverly, zone 6 eastern PA says:

    I greatly appreciate your timely advice, especially about the carrots, but I just can’t bring myself to pour chemicals on plants. My gardening hobby has been organic for 23 years, inside and outside. Dozens of houseplants brighten the dark winter days and none of them ever had any chemical applications. A good number travel outside for summer and back in before fall frost.

    I recently read the Organic Gardening Magazine article by hero Jeff Cox concerning the human health impacts of Roundup which frightened me well beyond the various warnings of years past. I realize Roundup is not the same as the chemicals described above, but I lump them all together as “things to avoid”. I hope I am not alone.

  16. Beverly, zone 6 eastern PA says:

    PS Links for those interested in further reading on the topic mentioned at #15.

  17. Glenn says:

    You are a fountain of information. Keep up the good work.

  18. Tara says:

    Thank you so much for all the great information you share. I am a total novice gardener, living in our first house after a long series of apartments (and dead houseplants… sad). I am reading and talking with local gardeners, but I do have a question that maybe you can help me with. Those I’ve talked with kind of brush over the whole “potting bench” situation, and I would really like more information. Basically, every photo of a potting bench seems to be outside and fully appointed without any coverings. There are, of course, some indoor sheds but the inspiration photos I find on pinterest and Martha Stewart are all outdoors. I’m wondering if all of these photos are 100% staged and if I should just leave my potting bench and all my tools and, well, EVERYTHING, outdoors all the time? Surely my trowel and trimmers and things should be stored out of the rain?

    Really, I just have no idea how to set anything up and make it look nice and be a functional space without carting everything out every time I need it. I don’t have space in the garage or a shed to keep it out of the weather all the time. Any information or advice you have would be helpful. Thanks!

  19. Donna says:

    I have access to bull kelp off the beach very near my home in Oregon. What it the best way to incorporate it into my garden soil. Last year I chopped it up and tilled it into the beds.. Would it be easier to just add it into the compost bin.. in layers over the winter along with my household waste?

  20. Hi there, yup this piece of writing is actually nice and I have learned lot of things from it on the topic
    of blogging. thanks.

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