Gardening with Mother Evelyn: September still a good time to plant


Welcome to Gardening with Mother Evelyn.

In this column you’ll get good honest gardening advice; ideas that you can use; and ideas that stretch your mind — plus some useless bits of fun information.

September in the garden! One day it is summertime hot. The next day it is a cool day with hints of fall, too late for summer planting, too early for fall and winter flowers.

This is a good time to give blooming plants a bit of a late summer boost. They will need some liquid fertilizer and a haircut — not a real haircut, just a trim and a little touch-up.

Go out into your garden and look at it without rose-colored glasses. Look for long awkward branches, look for hiding places for insects, slugs and snails. Look at begonias, impatiens, fuchsias and shrubs that have bloomed and have ugly spent flowers and scraggly branches.

In early September, you still have two months of good growing weather. Just as a new haircut makes you look younger and fresher, the same is true of your plants. Be sure to feed them, too.

So what can you begin to plant toward the end of September?

No. 1 is pansies. Pansies are the easiest and best of the winter bloomers. You can grow them in groups of pots, or plant them in sunny garden spots. You may mix them in with your vegetables, or even plant hanging baskets of little sweet violas.

The pansy family loves the cold weather; they won’t freeze and will bloom constantly well into the summer … but there’s a big if.

If you want to keep your pansies blooming, remember you cannot over-pick a pansy. The more you pick, the more they bloom.

So follow Mother Evelyn’s five-plus-one picking rule: Pick five pansies with only stems, then pick one flower further down in the plant with its foliage, too. The five-plus-one rule will keep your pansy plant full and bushy and give you some green in your little pansy vases.

Why would you pick off dead flowers (that’s work) when you can pick fresh flowers to bring sunshine into every room?

For advice on all the critters that attack pansies and more advice on understanding cyclamen, go to Mother Evelyn’s blog at Don’t expect too much — this is a “learn more” blog, because I don’t have time to update every day.

Going back to cyclamen, they’re wonderful outdoor shade bloomers all fall and winter into summer. Put them inside your home and expect a maximum of two months before they are ready for the trash. Put them outside with some shade and expect them to still be blooming next May. Sometimes they never stop.

Remember that cyclamen are actually tuberous plants. They have a round, hard tuber at their base with roots growing out of the tuber. You can usually feel it if you try. Plant it too deep and cover up that tuber with soil and you might as well hold the funeral right then because your cyclamen will soon die. Cyclamen take a nap in summer.

September is a waiting time, but it is also a good time for cutting back your fruit trees.

This twice-a-year pruning is the new way of managing the height of peaches, plums, apples and nectarines. Keep that fruit tree low enough that you don’t need a tall ladder for picking. When you get to be Mother Evelyn’s age, you need to stay off those ladders!

With young trees, cut all the branches back by half. Older trees, it’s OK to prune plenty and bring them back to a lower size. Here is a website that will give you lots more really good information:

Gardening is something you learn by doing, and by making mistakes. Like cooking, gardening is a constant process of experimentation, repeating the successes and throwing out the failures.

Look for more gardening advice from Mother Evelyn in the future.