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Gardening Q&A

Ask the Master Gardeners Sept. 2011

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Guadalupe County Master Gardeners is responsible for this content, which is not edited by the Wilson County News or wilsoncountynews.com.

The Capitol Eye
September 1, 2011 | 1,839 views | Post a comment

Q: What is that lovely plant I see with the yellow orange flowers and the big sunflower leaves? I want to grow it in my garden next year.

A: You are describing the Mexican Sunflower, Tithonia rotundiflora. You are correct in describing it as lovely. Every few years I grow these plants. They did real well in Kingsville, and do real well in Seguin. The only problem is that this warm season annual grows four to six feet tall and is three feet wide. This worked out for me this summer because most of my south bed was empty. The Tithonia is really great as a cut flower because with its hollow stem, it lasts a long time in a vase of water. Be careful when you cut the stems so that they don’t bend or collapse. Aggie-horticulture says to sear the stem, but I do not.

Tithonia is propagated by seed and requires full sun. The Floridata website says that it will tolerate filtered sun or partial shade. Supposedly dwarf cultivars are available but I haven’t seen them in local stores. Local stores carry Burpee’s “Torch” seeds, an All-America Winner.

According to the website aggie-horticulture, this plant has a very high heat tolerance and low water requirements which makes it great for here. It does get killed by the first frost (our first actual freeze last year was November 27 with 29 degrees), but by then I’m ready for a different cut flower (and the Tithonia reseeds so you will have seeds for next year).

Q: Is it too late to plant tomatoes?

A: It is for seeds. Usually for transplants, the recommendation is the month of July. However, I went on vacation during August and didn’t want to leave small plants for my neighbor to bother with. I planted large transplants the last week of August so I imagine if you can find large transplants now, you can still plant them. You will probably have to protect them during the first frost or two with row cover.

Q: What else can be planted in September?

A: Many vegetables (San Antonio part of the country) have September planting dates. Bush beans (before September 10), beets, broccoli and cabbage transplants, carrots, chard, collards, garlic, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, parsley, southern peas, potatoes, radishes, spinach, summer squash (August is better), and turnips. If you live in South Texas and Laredo, you can plant a little later and be fine.

Q: My basil keeps trying to produce flowers, but I want more leaves. Help!

A: According to the herb lady Ann McCormick, cut three nodes down below the flower to shock the plant out of flower mode. Don’t forget to cut a few stems before the first frost and place in a vase on your window sill. It will quickly root and you will have leaves for cooking all winter (and can replant it in the spring).

If you have a question to be answered, call the Master Gardeners at 830-379-1972 or leave a message to be answered. The website is guadalupecountymastergardeners.org. The Master Gardener research library is open Mondays from 8:30 to noon, on the second floor of the Texas AgriLife Extension building, 210 East Live Oak in Seguin.
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