Oh Autumn…you’ve been missed. You really are my favorite time of year.
Okay, I know autumn doesn’t officially start until later this month. But there is something magical about how August dissolves into September, isn’t there?
It’s a feeling in the air. A slow release of a long, hot summer. A sudden chill in the evening and the early morn. Soon the leaves will turn, the afternoon heat will temper and cicadas will go wherever they go when summer is done.
In Iowa, we may be lucky enough to have a few more warm months that will allow the garden to keep growing. And if we’re really lucky, this fall will be a pleasant unwinding from an unstable, wet and humid summer. Before winter sets in with its sharp, bitter teeth.
Honestly, summer felt like it flew by in a blink. We’re always so busy during the summer months. But autumn feels like a reprieve of sorts. Things simmer to a slower pace. There is a little more time for activities that don’t center around the market garden.
September is a great time to refocus all the energy we’ve been spending other places during the summer months. Here are a few things to consider tackling this month.
Plant Fruit Trees
It’s true that spring is a good time to put in new trees, but fall might be an even better choice if you live in a region with a particularly short spring season. In Iowa, we can quickly go from winter temps to summer-like heat in just a couple of weeks. New fruit trees don’t respond well to that kind of sudden stress.
Planting trees in September will usually allow roots to get established and grow deep before going dormant for winter. Rain is usually more plentiful so shortage of water isn’t an issue. And temps are starting to cool at night, giving the young tree a necessary reprieve from the heat of the day.
Organize the Garage
Summer is a busy time, full of projects and activity. Lots of trips to the garage or work shop. But tools and other things don’t often get put away. Things pile up. September is a great time to organize everything in the garage and deep clean work spaces and shelves. Vacuum and scrub the concrete floor, especially if you’ve done any kind of engine work this summer. Replace any stock items used, such as screws, shop towels, etc.
Time To Plant Cold Crops
Our market garden is still thriving in September. Veggies like tomatoes, pepper and green beans will continue to produce until our first frost, usually in November. Now is a good time to plant those cold crops that don’t do so well in the summer heat. Spinach, lettuce and chard do very well when direct seeded this month. Depending on your zone, you might even still have time to put in some fall peas. You can also transplant broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and Brussel sprouts for a delicious fall harvest.
Donate Unneeded Clothing
As the kids start back to school, September provides an opportunity to clean out the dresser drawers and donate unused or unneeded clothing that is still in decent shape. I’ve tried to make this a habit at least three times a year. I swear, it feels like our kids clothing multiplies. Limiting our wardrobe to only the items that we regularly wear cuts down on how many loads of laundry we have to do, and creates a cleaner, more efficient usage of space.
Deep Clean the Kitchen
Part of our summer ritual is preserving our bounty from the garden for winter. That means hours spent in the kitchen canning, preparing, freezing and dehydrating food. While we are still processing and canning foods like tomatoes, applesauce and soups this month, it’s still a good time to start deep cleaning the kitchen and to begin thinking about those yummy autumn dinner plans. Thanksgiving isn’t that far away now, after all.
Prepare Your Livestock For Winter
It’s time to start preparing the barn and stables for those cold, winter months. Chores here will vary, depending on the kind of animals you keep. For us, this means making sure we have plenty of dry straw put up in the corn crib for the pigs and chickens. Outbuildings will need to be checked to make sure they will provide a warm, dry space out of the cold winter winds. Any repairs necessary will be made this month. Heaters need to be looked over and water systems should be checked. It’s also a good time to check fencing and take care of anything that needs to be replaced.
Make Your Christmas Shopping List
Christmas is now just a little more than three months away. Stop and think about that for a moment. I always tend to wait until a few weeks before the holiday to buy presents, and we always wish we had started earlier. Life gets in the way, it seems, every year.
Maybe this year can be different. Why not start tackling that Christmas shopping list now? Set aside a budget and stick to it, and if you get most of it done now you won’t be persuaded to blow your budget on all of the Black Friday nonsense. Or better yet, consider making your gifts this year!
Seal Windows and Openings
Take a Saturday and makes sure all the windows and doors are sealed. Then take a look at any cracks in the foundation or drafty spaces in the attic. Winter-proofing your home in September will help cut down on the the heating bill and deter bugs and rodents from seeking shelter in your house when the nights turn cold.
Stockpile Wood For the Stove
We would normally start cutting firewood in June, to give it time to season over the summer. But September is still a good time to cut deadwood and stockpile it for the later months of winter. Make sure your wood is kept in a dry location that is easily accessible when it snows.
This is also a good month to clean your chimney or have it professionally swept.
Sharpen chainsaw blades. Change the oil on the tractor or the lawn mower. Grease anything that needs to be greased. Clean underneath the deck on the push mower. Change the blade if it’s a couple years old. Make sure you drain any gasoline from lawn equipment tanks before you put them away for storage, especially if you are using gasoline with ethanol. As you start to finish things up in the garden, make sure your tools are properly cleaned and sharpened if needed. Repaint any exposed metal to keep tools from rusting.
“Ah, September! You are the doorway to the season that awakens my soul… but I must confess that I love you only because you are a prelude to my beloved October.” — Peggy Toney Horton
Well, there you have it. There’s a lot to do this month, and these are only a few ideas. One thing is for sure, no matter what you have on your to-do list, make sure you take some time to enjoy the late summer sunsets before they slip away. Take plenty of evening walks, play catch with the kids, and enjoy as many meals grilled on the bbq as possible. One things about September is the opportunity to do all of these things is now fleeting. Winter is knocking on the door!