September in the Garden—A To Do List

This guide is tailored for the western valleys of Oregon and Washington. 

YOU can help to make the world a better, a more friendly, loving and beautiful place by being a good steward of the spot on this earth that you are privileged to be borrowing for a time—your garden. Nathan, the Treevangelist, urges you to treat your spot on this planet like your own personal Garden of Eden paradise. Then notice the joy that it will bring to you! This is your Divinely mandated responsibility.  Your trees, shrubs, flowers and the wildlife in your yard will express their smiling appreciation back to you as they radiate love,  joy and beauty bursting forth with vibrant and verdant life. Here is a to do list to help you to do just that…

Readers’ suggestions on how to improve this list are gladly solicited. If you, the reader, have any suggestions for additions to this month’s list, please put them in the comments section of this article, and I will add them to the list. Thank you in advance! — Nathan

August in the garden can be a quiet time due to the hot weather. Trees, shrubs and lawns begin to go into their summer dormancy (conserve energy and to withstand the stress of hot weather) and either quit growing or slow down. This is a good time to step back and to enjoy your garden and do a little relaxing yourself. You can always catch up on weed pulling—they seem to keep growing anytime. The main thing to remember is to water, water and water your trees and shrubs that need it. Most well established, deeply rooted trees and shrubs need little or no water. But many of your smaller plants with shallower roots, and especially your flowers will need constant watering. How can you tell if your larger trees and shrubs need water? They’ll tell you. When their leaves begin to wilt, they need some water.

Tree and Shrub Care

  • Fruit trees: This is an optimal time to prune trees that are done fruiting, since wounds will heal more quickly in warm weather. This is a good time to reduce the height of overgrown fruit trees, since they are likely to produce fewer water sprouts now then when pruned in the spring. 
  • Maples (including Japanese maples): Monitor the leaves of all maples and other trees and shrubs for symptoms of the potentially lethal verticillium wilt fungal disease. If you see branch dieback, call GNTS, inc..
  • Mulch: Apply two to three inches of mulch around all trees and ornamental shrubs. This helps to fertilize the plants and feed the soil, and also protects them against weed growth and loss of water when the warmer  weather returns.
  • Pines: Once the hot weather has passe, you can begin to prune your pines.
  • Pruning of trees and shrubs: You can do all aesthetic pruning of all ornamental shrubs and trees (except pines) at any time of the year including summer. Don’t over-prune the top crowns of thin barked trees (e.g. Japanese maples, flowering cherries), since the sun’s UV rays can cause trunk and branch bark dessication resulting in cracking and dieback of sapwood and even heartwood resulting in entry points for diseases and potential structural failure of branches and trunks.
  • Pruning of large trees: Most trees in the temperate western valleys of Oregon and Washington can be pruned anytime of the year. If you’re not sure what to do, or how to do it, call Good News Tree Service, Inc. for a consultation, pruning lessons or to have them do the pruning for you. It is likely best to wait for cooler weather to prune stressed or sick looking trees. Call us if you have questions about this.
  • Prune fast growing ornamental shrubs (e.g. laurel, privet, photinia, laurustinus, barberry) that are beginning to look shabby. You may need to prune them again in the early summer for a more neat and manicured look. 
  • Tree and shrub removal and stump grinding can be done all year long. 
  • Trees: Have an ISA Certified Arborist with an ISA Tree Risk Assessment Qualification (like Good News Tree Service, Inc.) inspect your large trees for the potential of failure due to weak root systems and defects in trunks and branches. This can be done anytime of the year.

Plant Health Care

  • Deep Root Fertilization: Deep root fertilize to promote healthy root development in preparation for next springs growing cycle.
  • Dogwood Anthracnose: If you missed the spring sprays topical fungal sprays,  and you see signs of anthracnose on your tree’s leaves (reddish, purplish, brownish splotches), you can spray your trees with a basal bark fungicide. Call GNTS, Inc. for information on this treatment.
  • Verticillium Wilt: The fall is the best time to treat, and spring is the second  best time. Maples are especially plagued by this disease. During hot weather, symptoms include smaller than normal cupped leaves in the upper canopy, often with the death of the entire branch occurring.

Elsewhere in the Garden

  • Put slug bait around your flowers and tender perennials like hostas. 
  • Apply two to three inches of mulch (e.g. bark dust, garden compost or wood chips) on all of your shrub beds. Covering bare dirt areas in your yard with mulch helps to prevent soil compaction from rains, and weed growth, and helps to enrich our heavy clay soils.
  • Cut English ivy off of the base of trees. (This can be done any time of the year.)
  • Feed the birds. Dutifully maintain your bird feeders. Bring life and excitement to your backyard by turning it into a bird sanctuary. The birds will thank you for your generosity by providing you with hours of entertainment, and by eating insect pests that harm your ornamental trees and shrubs. Birds in the yard are not only fun to watch, but they perform the vital task of eating harmful insects. Keep bird baths full. In hot and dry weather, birds need water to drink and to bathe in.
  • This is a good time of the year to plant trees and shrubs. Visit your local nursery and select your favorite ornamental shrubs and shade trees. After planting your new shrubs, just make sure that you water them well immediately and regularly subsequently for the first two or three summers until their roots get established. During warm weather (in the 60s to low 80s), deep root water once per week. During hot weather (mid-80s and higher) deep root water at least twice per week.
  • Fertilize your lawn. The cooler, wetter fall weather is also an excellent time to overseed your lawn to fill in the thin and bare areas.

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