VIU Milner Gardens and Woodland

September Growing Tips

by Vancouver Island Master Gardeners Association

Welcome to Milner Gardens' 2022 Monthly Growing Tips: Some short-cuts and tricks to help make lighter work of your gardening chores.

The September garden is shifting from summer’s riot of perfumed colour to the mellow hues of the late season. The food harvest continues, we gather seed from the annuals before composting the greens, and the search for autumn-planted bulbs begins.


Tending the Landscape

Sow green manure in bare spots left by early spring annuals, or try corn salad, winter lettuces, Asian greens or radish for autumn and winter meals. A little extra mulch after they sprout will protect them from early frosts and give you some to spread into the post-harvest bare spots so the ground will not remain bare over winter.

Pruning in autumn helps plants produce more flowers and fruit next spring but all depends on waiting for autumn dormancy. Each plant genus goes dormant on its own schedule. Because pruning encourages new growth, and new growth needs time to harden before the first frost, you’ll risk the possibility of severely weakening the plant, especially with our climate becoming more unpredictable, if you prune while it is still growing. Wait until all the leaves have fallen and shrub stalks feel dry then you can prune all shrubs and most trees. For conifers, though according to Brian Minter, wait until spring growth begins to colour the tips of spruce and fir, and for pines, wait until the candles at the tip of the branches sprout.

It is safe to prune perennial herbs until the end of the month. Twist a wire around the plumpest pruned sprigs leaving enough of a tail to use for a hanging hook. The food dryer is faster but herbs are more flavorful if hung as more of the essential oils remain in the leaves as they dry. A paper bag slung around and beneath each bunch will catch leaves as they fall off the stems. Most herbs lose much of their flavour after a year, so toss those into the compost.


Thinking About Daffodils

It is the beginning of bulb-buying season, and the trick to the earliest blooms is knowing where the soil will warm up first. The three days of full harvest moon will show you the sun and the shade patterns in six months. Buy bulbs now and store in a cool dry place (not the fridge!) and wait to plant in late October when garlic is planted. Geophytes respond very fast to soil that is warmer than their storage organs so planting them now often means they sprout too soon and may rot in winter’s wet soil.


Indoor Greenery

Indoor plants that have been outside for summer should come in now when the temperature is about what it will be indoors in winter. This minimizes the shock of a new environment, and helps them settle in faster.

Fridge chilling is used to force bulbs for winter blooms indoors. Count back 8 – 12 weeks from your preferred bloom time, then give them a good chill in the veggie bin. Until then, cool and dry are the by-words.


You Know You’re Addicted to Gardening When

You devoted 3 months growing tomatoes to save $1.27 at the market.

You understand money can’t buy happiness, but because it also buys plants, you’re good with that.


Philosophical Phertilizer

Chinese Proverb: “All gardeners know better than other gardeners.”