As educators, September is our month to evaluate what worked last year in our classroom, and what did not. I challenge you to transfer this same type of positive critique to your garden.

Ask yourself some questions:

1. How much care did my perennials require and did they become a burden?

2. Do I need to redesign any beds and transplant some perennials to more appropriate locations for sun, space, and visual appeal?

3. Were my last year’s goals realized, and if not, why?

4. What do I wish I had done differently?

Now you have a “need to improve” report card for next year! However, the work to implement this plan needs to happen from September through November. I’ve always recommended that if you do the labor in the fall, you can sit back and enjoy your spring through summer garden using your perennials as architectural grounding garden features.

*Even though it is still too hot to transplant or divide most perennials, Daylilies and Iris may be divided now. Share and trade extra bulbs with your neighbors. Your local nurseries like one of mine here in Waco, Greenlife Nursery and Landscaping, has an annual Iris day when gardeners can come and trade or purchase much sought after bulbs. I acquired all of my initial Iris this way!

*Most of the summer blooming perennials are finishing up their show for the year. Therefore, cut back the flower stalks and old faded flowers to keep the plants looking attractive.

*Mulches may have decayed and thinned out over the summer. Maintain at least a three-inch mulch layer in all of your beds. I like to groom and mulch one area or garden room at a time to guard against that impending feeling of being overwhelmed.

Keep the joy in gardening. You have three months to achieve these fall goals so don’t panic. Look around and see the beauty you’ve already created!

Did you make the honor roll on your 2020 gardening report card?


The breezes taste

Of apple peel.

The air is full

Of smells to feel –

Ripe fruit, old footballs,

Burning brush,

New books, erasers,

Chalk, and seeds.

The bee, his hive,

Well-honeyed hum,

And Mother cuts


Like plates washed clean

With suds, the days

Are polished with

A morning haze.


John Updike,

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