Bob Vila’s “Must Do” Projects for September
September marks the official beginning of autumn, which means there are leaves to be raked and cold weather preparations to be made. It’s also a great time of year to host one last yard sale, and snap up some deals of your own.
This month is a transitional one, one in which you’ll be winding down the garden but also making preparations for hunkering down indoors. Many of our September tasks do not result in instant gratification, but when it’s snowing this winter—or when your daffodil bulbs bloom in spring—you’ll be glad you took the time to check them off your to-do list this month.
1. Shop Smart
September is widely considered the best month to buy home appliances. So if you’ve been putting off purchasing that new oven, now might be the right time. Manufacturers debut their newest models at this time of year, so you can pick up last year’s version at a discount.
2. Plant Bulbs
Home gardeners in USDA Zones 1 through 7 can begin planting their spring bulbs in September. Before you plant, check the extended weather forecast. Bulbs need several weeks to root before the ground freezes. On the flip side, if your region is too warm, you’ll end up with sprouted bulbs.
3. Swap Out Your Windows and Doors
Whether you are excited about it or not, cold weather is on its way. Old and inefficient windows and doors leak a lot of heat, so be sure to switch out your window screens for storm windows before the frigid temps kick in. This swap will save you money on energy costs, protect your windows from the elements, and eliminate drafts throughout fall and winter.
4. Mulch Your Leaves
Instead of just raking them up, mulch your leaves with a lawn mower to provide much-needed nutrients to your lawn. Despite popular opinion, even oak leaves are safe to mulch—in moderation. If you have more leaves than lawn, try composting the leftovers.
5. Service Your Heater
Prep your furnace now so you’ll be ready for a sudden cold snap. Check the pilot light, vacuum excess dust, and change the furnace filter. If you come across a problem that’s too big for you to fix, call a pro so you’re not out in the cold next month.
6. Clean Your Tools
It will soon be time to store lawn mowers and weed trimmers for the season. Before you do, be sure to clear them of clippings and debris. And don’t forget to drain your lawn mower or any tools with gas tanks—it’ll make it easier to start them in the spring.
7. Save Your Seeds
As your garden dies back, deadhead your flowers and harvest the seeds. With a little time and preparation, you will have the makings for a successful—and free!—planting season come spring.
For flowers, cut heads once their seed pods have dried (or shortly before), then hang them upside down in a paper bag to dry. After allowing enough time for drying, remove the seeds, separating them as much as possible from chaff and other plant material. For fruits and vegetables, harvest the seeds once the fruit or vegetable has become fully ripe (some gardeners even allow them to overripen). Before setting the seeds out to dry, give them a thorough wash. Adjust your approach with podded vegetables like beans and peas. Let these seeds dry in their pods on the plants before you gather them.
8. Hold a Yard Sale
An end-of-summer yard sale will let you clear out your clutter and earn a couple of extra dollars in the process. Make it a success by keeping prices low and placing the best and biggest items out front to lure in passersby.
9. Seed and Sod
Because of cooling temperatures and sunny days, early September is the perfect time of year to seed and sod cold-weather grasses. Planting from seed is cheaper, but it requires a bit more care and maintenance in the beginning. Laying sod is a great solution for sloped lawns or areas prone to erosion, but you will need heavy watering as the roots take hold in the yard.
10. Check the Roof
Winter weather can wreak havoc on the roof. Before the first snowfall, check your roof for loose shingles and leaks. While you’re up there, clean fall leaves from the gutters to prevent basement flooding and ice dams.