Here at A Garden for the House, September is a marathon-month. Outdoors, cooler temperatures invite the dividing and resetting of perennials, and the planting of bulbs, often in the hundreds. Indoors, there are window- and fluorescent-light-gardens to set up. This is also the time that I prepare vacationing houseplants for their return to home-life. Yes, September is a marathon alright, but there are glorious results at the finish line:
Bulbs. Order early, and with purpose. Make a copy of your order form, and note each bulb’s height, color and location for planting. This way you won’t be caught — as I have been — standing in the cold with bags and bags of bulbs, and no idea where to plant them. (I always order extra tulips, daffodils, Dutch hyacinths and muscari for advance bloom in the house.)
Chrysanthemums. If you didn’t buy these in July as I recommended — before bloom, and perhaps at a discount — splurge on a few now. They do wonders for the fall-to-frost border. If you don’t wish to plant them, just tuck pots between other plants for temporary decoration. In the photo above is red Chrysanthemum ‘Helen.’
Iris. Divide and reset crowded clumps, but remember to keep rhizome tops exposed.
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.
Potatoes. Although most of my potato vines have died back, I won’t harvest until really cool weather arrives (usually the end of October). This way my cellar will be cold, too, and better suited for potato-storage. Tubers only keep well in dark, humid, and chilly quarters (35-40 degrees F.).
Window Garden. Clean window glass, and if your window is outfitted with glass shelves like mine, polish these too. You’d be amazed at how the slightest layer of grime can undermine an indoor garden’s decorative quality.
Artificial-Light Garden. Replace fluorescent tubes. You don’t need special “growth lights” to promote flowering; I have found that standard cool whites, available in any hardware store, perform just as well for a fraction of the cost.
Houseplants. Before nights get cold, houseplants should be gradually acclimated to indoor life. By Labor Day, I move the outdoor ones to the porch where there is less light than in the open and they stay there for a week or two. 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. This way, plants will be in a clean condition and no pest epidemics will start. In my experience, House & Garden Raid is very effective. Follow label directions carefully. (Do not use insecticides on your citrus plants, lemon verbena, scented geraniums or other potted edibles.) 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.
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