September Sustainable Garden Management Practices for the Southeast

We are entering my favorite season!!! Even thought, I have poison ivy…again! It’s not the season’s fault! Ha!

SEPTEMBER September delights.  With the dog (and cat) days of summer behind us, September opens with cooler air and less humidity, creating a fresh scent and a sense of excitement.  The source of this excitement may be for no reason other than it is bearable to be outside once again.

Indeed, September, and throughout the fall, is an ideal time to plan and plant new garden beds to ready oneself for the next year. September is also an ideal time to enjoy what the month has to offer.

Thought you might be interested in learning how the dreaded Bradford pear had its beginning.

Be sure to check out one of the latest posts, Why Dead Wood is Good Wood!

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Here’s another: How-To Grow Privacy Fast!

How-to grow privacy fast

Our first online course, Raising Monarchs and Growing Milkweed has been a great success. We hope you want to sign up and learn how you can help raise monarchs.

The next course we will be taking online is about the Ruby-throated hummingbird.

We still have space in our Certification in Sustainable Gardening held in January and February 2020. We’d love to see you there!

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During the month of September, Bee Better Naturally will be exhibiting at a couple of events.

1) The Johnson Country Pollinator Symposium. This will be a great event. Well planned and great speakers. Several members of the Bee Better Naturally Forum will be in attendance. Not a Forum member? We are planning 2020 now. Look for posting soon. Here is our current year’s program. SOLD OUT!


2) BugFest. If you have never attended, you are missing out on a very fun event!!! I will also be giving a science talk on the monarch butterfly. Time TBD. Bee Better Naturally also offers this course online!

While I’m adding to the September newsletter, I finally see that the monarchs have arrived. (August 25, 2019) Finally. Just in time, yesterday, my tags for tagging newly emerged monarchs arrived.

Bee Better Naturally participated in this monarch reporting. We didn’t find any monarchs, at any stage, but we don’t tend to find them until later. The reporting was held July 27th - August 4th.

Monthly Garden Management

Lantana, salvias, helenium, helianthus, ruella, coneflowers, goldenrod, and various native milkweeds, plus the annuals are still going strong, but they are starting to look a little worse for wear unless you have them a haircut around the fourth of July. One of my favorites, Phlox  paniculata ‘Shortwood’, introduced by Stephanie Cohen, continues to bloom! And Phlox ‘Jenna’ is living up to the promise as a superior butterfly magnet! I will be gettin a lot more for 2020.

Deadhead Flowers: Keep your flowers blooming longer by removing faded blossoms from your cannas, roses, daisies, and more. As for the seed plants, such as black-eyed Susans, phlox, and coneflower, leave the flower heads for the birds. Once the birds have picked them through, it’s OK to deadhead with hopes of another flush of blooms.

Deadleaf: I have a love/hate relationship with daylilies. I love the flowers, both for beauty and edibility, but I don’t like the look of the untidy foliage. Some of my taller Hemerocallis spp. need the bottom leaves removed too.

Lawns: I’ve stopped carrying a long ago about how my lawn looks. After I switched from fescue to emerald zoysia, I’ve not have as many or any problems. While I still get some weeks, I no longer have to worrying about it struggling in the heat, getting a circle fungus, or watching it go dormant during the peak of summer. It’s not so much I don’t like the look of a grey lawn of drought-induced fescue , it’s watching the Bermuda wire grass thriving that I loath! Ugh!

Pruning: You can prune to shape plants if need be, but anytime past August or September is getting too late. New growth will emerge, and the new growth will be affected by the frost and cold weather.

Divide: August and September are a good time to divide iris. Don’t be afraid of this task; it’s super easy. When iris get crowded, they don’t bloom as well. Below is a good example of a crowded iris patch.

Using a garden fork or shovel, loosen the soil around the outside of the patch. Once loosened, take a hand fork or trowel to lightly left from the edge. They should release from soil with no struggle.

Gently pull clumps apart.

Discard rhizomes with no foliage, damaged, or soft.

Cut back the foliage into a fan shape to keep the iris from having to care for more growth than it needs to.

Replant at the surface of the ground. Lightly cover with soil, keeping the rhizome showing, and water in well.

Roses: Know your roses and when to cut back without fear of cutting next year’s blooms.

With modern roses, such as hybrid teas, floribundas, grandifloras, and miniature roses, you can deadhead without fear of cutting next year’s bloom. However, with many of the Old Garden Roses, such as Gallicas, Albas, Damasks, Centifolias, most species roses, timing is critical. For those once-blooming Old Garden Rosess, they bloom on new wood that’s been hardened over the winter.  These are prune when the bloom cycle is complete in the spring. After this spring pruning,  leave them alone until they’ve bloomed again the following spring. Of course, you can remove dead or diseased wood at any time.

September is the beginning of best time to plant trees and shrubs. In our area, Ecoregion 231, we can plant up to late winter, as long as the ground isn’t frozen. Wait until the true fall appears; you can feel a change in the air. Plant then and make sure they are watered on a regular basis for the type of plant they are.

Remember, too, September is a great time to plant shop! Common practice in the retail business, is to sell plants that are in bloom. No one wants to buy a goldenrod in spring; but when blooming in the fall, people are drawn to it. So to have a year-round garden, consider shopping in all seasons.

Select and pre-order your spring-blooming bulbs now while supplies are plentiful. Don’t put off today what will be gone tomorrow. The most unusual bulbs sell out fast. I can say this now because I’ve already put my in order.  Wink, wink! Try something fun such as the species tulip, Tulipa clusiana.

Harvest vegetables as needed. Most of what’s growing in your vegetable garden are annuals–tomatoes, beans, peppers, etc.  By September, they are looking a little wrung out. As plants end their production cycle, remove them from the garden; otherwise, they may attract insects and disease to the plants that are still productive.

August and September is the time to begin starting fall and winter crops such as cilranto, broccoli, lettuce, kale, and I just direct-seeded parsley.


I only every want to speak from experience; these are the fruits I grow in the Bee Better Teaching Garden. I simply won’t grow them, and if I did, I still wouldn’t spray. Joni Mitchell comes to mind.

The following plants are in fruit now:

Fig — Ficus ‘Brown Turkey’ The second crop is a bumper!

Muscadines —Vitis rotundifolia

Paw-paw — Asimina triloba Excellent crop this year!

Pomegranate — Punica granatum ‘Nana’ and

Pomegranate — Punica granatum — Unknown variety, with a medium height.

Strawberry needs
September (and August) is when the cell size of spring fruit strawberry buds is determined. The more favorable the growing conditions your strawberry’s receive now, the bigger the berries will be next year.

Ensure that your strawberries get an inch of water each week. If nature doesn’t provide this, then plan to supplement with water from the spigot, well, or rain harvester.

If you didn’t fertilizer your strawberries in August, do so in September. For plants that were planted this past spring, apply 4 to 6 ounces of ammonium nitrate (33% nitrogen) or 12 to 18 ounces of 10-10-10 per 25 feet of row.

For plants in their second year of growth, increase the application rate to 6 to 8 ounces of ammonium nitrate or 18 to 24 ounces of 10-10-10 per 25 feet of row.

Spread the fertilizer uniformly in a band over the row, about 14 inches wide. Apply when the foliage is dry. Brush fertilizer off the leaves to avoid leaf burn.

In cases where the strawberries aren’t planted in rows, but rather as a garden border, simply estimate the square footage and apply the equivalent amount of fertilizer. My strawberry is 2.5 feet wide by 10 feet long, which is equivalent to 25 feet of row.




In the absence of rain, be sure to keep your birdbaths, butterflybaths, and beebaths filled. It’s time to think about feeders. In the next month or two, as the temperature changes, you might want to add a feeder where it can be viewed from inside.

Feeding the hummingbirds
Hummingbirds feeders aren’t necessary if you have enough plants to feed these visitors, but they are a great way to ensure you have a consistent food source for the hummers, and you can place the feeder in a location that is easy to see from your favorite chair, either inside or out.

Making hummingbird nectar
Making sugar-water nectar to fill you feeder is easy to do. Boil 4 parts water with 1 part sugar. As soon as the sugar dissolves, you can reduce the heat. It doesn’t take long; less than a minute. Let sugar water mixture cool, and fill the feeder. Store any remaining nectar in the refrigerator for up to a week. When the temperatures are hot, greater than 86º F, change the nectar water daily.

Waterwise:  With a waterwise design, watering in the absence of rain is a breeze.  My garden at home, the Bee Better Teaching Garden, was designed with waterwise principles. I have very little watering to do, and what I do have, is a choice. My boxwood collection is contained. But the watering is smart. These containers are near a watering source, so moving around a hose isn’t a big deal.

The late winter application of mulch is tuckering out by now. Now as the leaves begin to drop either from it being dry or just an early species dropping, leave it on the ground. Unless the is diseased in anyway, these leaves add good mulch protection.

Good Bugs: One of our Forum members sent this pic to us for identification. She asks, “What’s this on my milkweed? A great shot and good news: Lacewing eggs. Good bugs indeed!

The green lacewing larvae are a voracious feeder and can consume up to 200 aphids or other prey per week. In addition to aphids, it will eat mites and a wide variety of soft-bodied insects, including insect eggs, thrips, mealybugs, immature whiteflies, and small caterpillars—another reason to raise monarchs from eggs!

Pest control:
If you find fall webworms in your trees–hickory, walnut, birch, cherry, and crabapple, just leave them be. The two can co-exist.


The azalea caterpillar, Datana major, is found in found in our area from August through October on azaleas (Rhododendron spp.). Often, the caterpillars completely defoliate much of the plant before they are detected. While the caterpillar appears hairy, it is harmless to humans and can be picked off the bushes by hand.


Oak Worms, Anisota peigleri: Are you walking gingerly down the garden path to avoid stepping the rather large orange/yellow-stripped oak worms? You’re in good company; they are everywhere right now. Or maybe you are trying to avoid the massive quantiles of waste pellets. On a quiet day, the pellets can be heard clattering down through the leaves and hitting the ground below. ewwwww.