Ahh! September, the month of lawn maintenance! After a long period of drought over the summer, it will certainly be needed this year. If you have a small lawn, rake out the ‘thatch’ or dead grass and moss that has accumulated over the mowing season with a wire rake, if your lawn is larger, hire a scarifier from the tool hire shop and share the use with several friends to save money or buy an electric scarifier like the one illustrated. Spike compacted areas with a fork, face the front of the fork, then push the spikes into the ground rocking it backwards and forwards to loosen the soil. In severe cases you may need to ‘hollow tine’, to break up surface compaction, these too can be hired or there are smaller versions as hand tools which are like a large apple corers. Finally, brush in top dressing, repair worn patches, with seed and feed with autumn lawn fertiliser. It is hard work, but rewarding!
To keep your summer bedding and hanging baskets looking good, continue feeding with high potash fertiliser, watering and deadheading – you will be surprised how long they’ll last. If frost is forecast later in the month, protect your plants with a few layers of horticultural fleece or newspaper. The first frosts strike anytime in September – depending on where you garden and although they’re not often as hard as those that arrive later, they can still signal the end for tender plants. You’ll know from past experience when to bring tender plants like Osteospermum’s and Agyranthemum’s under cover; just listen to the weather forecast, so you don’t get caught out and take soft tip cuttings, in case the parent plants don’t survive – they tend to make better plants, the following year, anyway. Plenty of gardeners lost Rosemary during last winter’s chill and there is still time to take semi- ripe cuttings, so you are prepared if it happens again. Remove several young healthy shoots from this year’s growth from 2.5-3” long, trim them just below a leaf joint with a sharp pair of secateurs or knife. Using your finger and thumb, strip off the leaves from the bottom 2.5cm of the cutting, dip the bottom 2.5cm in hormone rooting powder, tapping lightly to remove any excess. Fill a 9cm pot with cutting compost, firm it gently then insert the cuttings round the edge so the leaves of adjacent cuttings do not touch then firm the compost again. Water thoroughly, allow the compost to drain, then put the pot in a propagator or on a sunny windowsill. Keep the compost moist but not waterlogged and they should root in a couple of months. Simple!
Perennial weeds are particularly vulnerable to translocated weed killers at this time of year. As growth slows, later in the month, sap is taken down and stored in the roots where it does its deadly deeds slowly and thoroughly. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and spray on a still, dull day – you wouldn’t want to kill your prize plants by mistake! Happy Gardening!