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Q. Tell me about the tomatoes that will be available for late September and October planting. Do you think they will make it before a freeze in our area?
A. Large plants of two fast-maturing varieties of tomatoes -- Surefire and Roma Surprise (Heinz 9881) -- are the fast-maturing selections that will be available on the market beginning Sept. 17 and ending about Oct. 15.
The plants will be large enough to provide fruit in about 60 days, if the weather cooperates.
Surefire is a tennis-ball sized, firm tomato that has proven to be the fastest-maturing variety in the fall. Romas (paste tomatoes) are used for cooking more than fresh eating, but this Roma Surprise is reportedly especially tasty. It is also fast-maturing. Unfortunately, our favorite varieties -- Tycoon, Celebrity, 444, Solar Fire, and Sun Pride -- produce larger fruit and require a longer season.
Q. With the drought, do you think it makes any sense to apply a pre-emergent herbicide to prevent winter weeds?
A. If you have been watering your lawn and/or you expect winter rains, a pre-emergent herbicide may be worthwhile. I like Amaze, Portrait, or XL.
Q. If a live oak has lost its leaves because of the drought, is it dead?
A. Not necessarily, live oaks and other trees that have lost leaves because of the drought may re-leaf. They will need normal rains or regular irrigation, however, to restore themselves. Trees in such a state are susceptible to death if the conditions that led to the leaf drop continue.
Q. We are moving and want to take some of our irises with us. Will they survive transplanting now?
A. Yes, irises are very tough. The rhizomes can be dried for planting later, or replanted immediately.
Q. Have the purple martins left for the south already? Should we clean out the houses? Did the drought cause the early migration?
A. Martins leave in late July or early August every year. The drought probably limited nesting success, but did not rush their inclination to head south as far as I can tell. Yes, now is the time to clean and lower the houses.
Q. When can we plant snapdragons and stocks for the winter?
A. Wait until after mid-September.
Calvin Finch is a horticulturist and the San Antonio Water System’s project director of regional initiatives and special projects. Hear him on “Gardening South Texas” on KLUP 930 AM radio Saturdays noon to 2 p.m., and 1-3 p.m. Sundays. Or, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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