Labor Day often is touted as the traditional “end of summer,” and, according to the calendar, autumn officially starts with the fall equinox at 10:29 a.m. on Sept. 22. But our summer season in Georgia extends a little bit longer. Still, the days are getting shorter, and that is beginning to have an effect. We almost can see the end of our long and brutally hot summer.
For Georgia gardeners, fall is not a time of winding down things in the garden; instead, it’s a time of revival and renewed effort. We can get back into our gardens and enjoy ourselves, as the debilitating heat loses its grip on the weather.
For the next two months, we will experience a gradual shift to milder weather. There will be cool spells, followed by hot, summer-like weather, but as we move into late October, cooler weather will begin to dominate the scene.
You might notice an increase of vigor in your warm-season bedding plants in September. Why? Shorter days mean fewer hours of intense heat. Even though the daytime highs might stay about the same, plants begin to experience less stress. This encourages a “second wind” for flowering annuals (https://bit.ly/3QgMS7M) that might last well into October.
With this being the case, consider cutting back some of your summer bedding plants and flowers that have grown tall and leggy over the long growing season. This is done in late August or early September at the latest, and it generally involves cutting back plants about one-third to one-half their height. While you’re at it, it might be a good idea to impose some order on those overgrown flower beds. Groom the plantings to remove dead flowers and unattractive foliage.
It is too early to plant hardy trees, shrubs, ground cover and vines in the landscape. Temperatures in the 80s and 90s likely will be common in September, and this still is too stressful for new plantings. Wait at least until the cooler weather of October. The ideal planting season for hardy trees, shrubs and ground cover is November through February.
It also is too soon to plant cool-season bedding plants, although they will begin to show up in area nurseries this month. Even if you have an area where the annual bedding plants were spent and have been removed, it still is too hot to plant most fall bedding plants. Mulch over the area, and wait until the more reliably cooler weather of October to plant there. Now would be a great time to consider testing the soil (https://bit.ly/3QjK7Te).
Flowering bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils, also become available this month, but there is no hurry to plant them. Purchase them now, if you like, but plant bulbs in the garden from mid-October through early December (https://bit.ly/3BUsSDt).
The chrysanthemum often is considered the floral symbol of fall, and you will begin seeing them for sale this month as well. When planted in the garden while daytime highs still are in the upper 80s and lower 90s, these flowers will wither rapidly in the heat. Wait for consistently lower temperatures to purchase chrysanthemums. If purchased and planted at the appropriate time, the flowers and the colorful display they provide will last longer in the garden.
So, for now, let’s anticipate the soon-to-arrive milder weather and enjoy the delights of gardening over the next few months. And remember, it is never too soon to start planning for next year’s flower garden!
The Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County (MGVOCC) supports the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service and strives to improve the quality of life in our community by delivering research-based horticultural information, educational programs and projects.
– Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County is a part of the University of Georgia Extension.