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Autumn Gardens

by Beth Barrett

I harvested coriander seeds, tan brown and dry, this week before the forecasted rains poured forth. Threshing the seed heads between my hands, their bounty freely dropping into a brown paper sack, I marveled at the abundance of late summer’s garden. As we turn the corner into fall, collecting, gathering, and preserving, I am grateful to be rooted in this God-ordained seasonal rhythm. Yes, there have been disappointments and frustrations this summer–crops eaten by pesky rabbits, squirrels, or seedlings mowed down by slugs. However, I still go into the garden daily to notice and observe, and measure the ripening growth that has survived.

Days will soon shorten and cool, and there are many tasks to do this month, but I hope you find a few moments to reap the sights and maturing aromas of early fall. 

September garden activities

In your vegetable garden:

  • Sow corn salad and winter lettuce by the first week of September. Otherwise, buy transplants (such as kale) and plant them soon. Generally, it’s too late to sow any greens for fall harvest. But you may let them overwinter, and then you will have a jump in the spring!
  • Sow overwintering salad greens such as spinach, arugula, and cilantro. The end of this month into the first weeks of October is a good window of time to sow these greens. The smaller plants will survive through the cold winter months better than larger plants. Overwintering peas and cover crops such as fava beans can also be sown this month.
  • Start saving seeds for next year’s garden. Let the seeds completely dry before storage.
  • Order garlic and walking onions (Allium cepa, Egyptian Walking onions) now for the best selection. Usually, garlic is only shipped in the fall. If you find seed companies are sold out, try your local farmer’s market for seed garlic. I recently purchased Chesnok Red, a late-season purple stripe hardneck, at an area market.
  • Sow garlic and shallot bulbs anytime until mid-November.  

In your flower garden:

  • Divide existing perennials (such as irises and daylilies) or transplant them to a new location in your garden.  
  • Plant new perennials into the garden. Try adding coneflowers (Echinacea) to extend garden color into the fall. A low-maintenance plant, this herbaceous perennial will satisfy you with a long bloom time well into the autumn months.
  • Take stem cuttings of geraniums, coleus, and begonias. An easy propagation method, you will be delighted next spring with economical and fresh new starts to transplant into containers outside. Overwinter the plants in a garage or on a sunny window sill.
  • Plant fall annuals such as pansies and violas.
  • Peonies, poppies, and bearded irises are available to plant this month.
  • Purchase bulbs soon for better selection, but wait for cooler weather to plant.
  • Mulch perennial beds to help protect the plants over the winter.
  • Continue weeding and keeping new autumn plantings moist.

Places to visit this month:

  • Dahlia Barn, Flower Festival, opens September 1st -3rd, this weekend. The “Sample/Show Gardens” will be available to view and order dahlia tubers from September through mid-October, 10 am to 3 pm. See dahliabarn.com for more information.
  • The Shark Garden Fall Open House & Bake Sale, September 9th, 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. Yummy jams, jellies, baked goods, and more are available at our local community garden’s primary fundraiser for the fall season. For more details, see sharkgarden.org
  • September 10th, Washington Native Plant Society Plant Sale, Bellevue Botanical Garden, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For further information, see bellevuebotanical.org.

Happy gardening,


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