September - What's in Katie's Garden?

In My Garden (Zone 7-8)

Katie Elzer-Peters
Katie Elzer-Peters is the author of Beginner's Illustrated Guide to Gardening, Carolinas Fruit and Vegetable Gardening, Southern Fruit and Vegetable Gardening, and many other vegetable gardening books. She lives in coastal North Carolina, where she enjoys four-season gardening. 

September is kind of a busy month in my garden. We’re enjoying the last of the summer vegetables and flowers. I still have loads of flowers blooming, including zinnias, sunflowers, marigolds, and other warm-weather annuals. Morning glory vines have scrabbled all over the “wild” flower garden. (I call it the “wild” flower garden because it’s not necessarily wildflowers planted, but it is planted with flowers and the whole thing is completely wild.) The zinnia, sunflower, and other flowering annual seeds that we planted about six weeks ago are starting to bloom, while the first round planted in late spring is pretty much done. 

Zinnias still going strong

"Throw it and Grow it"

Sometimes I buy seed mixes, but often I just buy individual packets and dump them together to create my own mix. (Sometimes I raid my seed drawer and mix together whatever is leftover from the spring that I didn’t plant and throw that mix out in the “wild” garden.) I sometimes feel like that corner of the yard is an absolute wreck, but when I’m outside working, I get more compliments from people walking, running, or driving by (my street is busy) on that crazy corner full of color than on any other part of my garden. If you have space, I encourage you to make a “throw it and grow it” corner where you grow whatever you want—from seed. There’s really nothing more miraculous than watching a handful of seeds growing into a gorgeous garden. And, if you mix everything together, the design/outcome will be a surprise every year!

Morning glories are aggressive, but nothing beats their bright color when the sun rises each day.

"Fall Gardening Tips" 

Here’s what I’m doing in the garden this month (and you should be doing, too!)

• Taking out summer vegetables and annuals. I’ll take out whatever has stopped producing and throw it in the compost pile. If anything is particularly buggy or disease-ridden, I’ll throw it in the trash so that I don’t carry those problems over to next year.

• Building the compost pile. Everything that comes out of the garden goes into the compost pile. Leaves are starting to fall, too, so I add those. If the pile seems a bit heavy on the brown materials, I’ll hunt around the neighborhood for bagged grass clippings to add.

• Leaving perennials alone. Don’t cut back perennials until they are fully dormant. Cutting them back early can trigger them to re-sprout and use up all of the energy they’ve stored up during the year. I cut back perennials in January or February.

• Planting fall vegetable seeds. I like to plant three rounds of carrots, two or three weeks apart so that they mature at different times. I cover carrot seeds lightly with soilless mix (seed-starting mix) and label the rows with the date planted.

Label vegetable rows so you know what you planted and when you planted it.


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Gardening Tip of the Day

  • Order bare-root roses now for planting from mid to late fall. When the plants arrive, select a spot where the soil is well drained and add lots of organic matter such as compost, leaf humus and peat moss to the soil before planting. Spread out roots in the planting hole, fill with soil, and water well. Mound up mulch around base of roses for added winter protection and continue watering until the ground freezes.