LYNDEN — Photographers call it the golden hour, that magical first hour after sunrise and last hour before sunset when the lighting is just perfect for photography.
If I might, I think we gardeners could borrow the idea for our hobby, for certainly September is one of the golden months.
With warm days, cool nights, abundant sunshine but occasional showers — this time of year is just about perfect in my book. As we begin to settle into autumn, here are a few gardening tips for a golden month.
First, early autumn is a great time to start planting shrubs, trees, and perennials once again. Besides being more comfortable to work in, September’s pleasant weather offers ideal conditions for plants to get well-established quickly: warm soil temperatures, cool overnight air, and occasional rain is a near-perfect recipe for planting success.
If the heat this summer wiped out some of your plants or your garden has some holes to fill, visit a local garden center and pick out the perfect plants to rejuvenate your garden.
For whatever you’re planting, I recommend amending your soil with compost to add fresh nutrients and improve the drainage of clay soil or add organic matter to sandy ground.
A fresh layer of compost spread around the base of your plants after planting will also help to hold moisture in your soil and provide some insulation for winter’s chill while enriching your soil.
And when you plant, be sure to use a plant starter like Bonide Root & Grow or Espoma Bio-Tone to encourage fast root development and help your plants get established quickly.
Second, September is also a great time to start switching out your summer flowers with fall and winter color.
Even if you managed to keep your plants looking great through the late June heatwave, the more recent heat in mid-August may have been more than your flowers could handle.
If so, or if you’re just ready for a change, winter pansies are still one of my favorites for long-lasting color, blooming into winter and then again throughout next spring — honest.
Combined with the textures of ornamental grasses, heuchera, dusty miller and some mums for fall color, fresh pots for a new season are easy to put together in no time.
Third, September is one of the golden months to plant grass — and a lot of yards could use some love after the summer we’ve had.
Reseed thin or bare patches by spreading a fine layer of topsoil in bare areas followed by grass seed and starter fertilizer, and top with a dusting of compost or peat moss.
Water lightly at least twice — even three or four times — a day until the grass sprouts to ensure fast germination and even growth, then reduce your watering to once a day until cool, rainy weather takes over.
Whatever grass seed you choose, select a mix high in fescue and avoid cheap mixes that contain lower-quality grass types that may not be durable in our climate.
Finally, if you have an established lawn in which you’ve battled poa annua (commonly referred to as annual bluegrass), September is a great time to apply Crabgrass Plus to prevent poa from sprouting in the fall and winter months.
Because poa loves cool weather and regular rains, it tends to sprout in autumn and can get established over the winter months, evading spring treatment, so apply a pre-emergent like Crabgrass Plus now to get a head start on battling this nuisance grassy weed in your lawn.
Like every photographer knows, the golden hour is fleeting, and much like the fading rays of sun around sunset, early autumn’s pleasant weather won’t last forever.
Take advantage of this golden month while it’s here and enjoy some time refreshing your yard and garden for a new season.
-- David Vos is manager of Vander Giessen Nursery Inc. of Lynden.