This month’s theme: begin winding down and cutting back.
Cut back your peonies, if the leaves are starting to wither and brown. I usually cut them down to short spikes (a few inches tall), so if I am planting spring bulbs I know where not to dig. However, if your peonies had any dieases this year, remove every scrap of the stalk.
Yank all the yellowing leaves off of your daylilies. This is tremendously satisfying because you will probably already see the bright green new foliage at the base of the plant. For the next few weeks you will have a very tidy daylily bed of little grassy clumps – easy to weed and mulch around.
Keep deadheading roses, unless you are trying to get ornamental hips for the fall. If we have a warm fall you might get rebloom one last time. Remember to put all rose clippings in the trash, not compost, for better disease and pest control.
Deadhead butterfly bush and spirea. Yes, it takes forever. Sorry.
Cut salvia, veronica, and other tall bloomers down to the basal foliage.
Snip off yellowing or burned leaves and old flower stems on hostas and alchemilla mollis.
Divide and transplant spring- and summer-flowering perennials.
If you can find any good perennials on sale, buy them now and plant them! Keep them watered if there isn’t rain.
Peonies, poppies and bearded iris are available for planting now.
ORDER YOUR BULBS if you haven’t already. Plant them!
Finish up small pruning jobs, but don’t do anything too drastic – you don’t want to stimulate lots of tender new growth right before the cold weather sets in.
Similarly, stop fertilizing. I know the big-box stores are selling “winterizing” fertilizer for the lawns. That’s something else again. It is a good idea to give your lawn a nitrogen-heavy fertilizer (the first number) in October. But anyway we are not talking about lawns, and we are not talking about October, so – to prevent a burst of tender new growth in your perennials and shrubs: stop fertilizing.
Bring your houseplants back indoors. Check carefully for pests.
When you’ve done all your chores, treat yourself to some fall annuals: chrysanthemums, asters and pansies. Many of these will be labeled as hardy but they really aren’t; just accept that and then you can be pleasantly surprised if any do survive the winter. You don’t need to spend a fortune. Just a few fall flowers right where you will see them every day will give you a lift.