September 2013 Gardening Calendar
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September is fall gardening month. In the vegetable garden, plant green beans, carrots, radish, summer squash, beets, rutabagas and lettuce by seed. Late in the month, you can consider the cole crop transplants (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collards and kale). Other greens such as chard and mustard can also be planted.
Remember lettuce will only germinate if the seed has access to light. For best results, prepare the bed by tilling in 2 inches of compost and 1 cup of slow-release lawn fertilizer over an 8-foot-long, 12-inch-wide row. Moisten each day with a gentle flow of water from a wand until the plants reach 1 inch tall. Carrots also germinate well under such a regime.
Tomatoes are a special story. For best results transplants should have been placed in the garden in August. If you can find large plants, there may be enough time to make a crop if the weather cooperates.
Reduce spider mite on the August and newly planted tomatoes with a weekly spray of seaweed extract and neem oil under the leaves. Apply the spray in the early morning or evening to reduce reaction to the sun and heat.
Late in the month some cool weather annuals can be planted. Snapdragons, dianthus, stocks, petunias and calendula all do well. Wait to plant pansies, cyclamen and primrose. They are sensitive to September and October warm spells.
The problem with preferred planting times in the fall is that for many autumns the weather stays mild and the summer annuals -- zinnias, cosmos, marigolds, moss roses, vincas, begonias, coleus and caladium -- all look good and deserve a spot in the garden until Thanksgiving. The shade plants are not as big as an issue because it is best to wait until November to plant cyclamen and primrose. You can wait until the zinnias and vincas decline or you can remove them while they are still in their prime. One compromise that works is to plant the snapdragons and other cool weather annuals in between the existing rows of hot weather annuals.
Prepare the roses for the fall flush of blooms by giving them a light pruning. Open up the middle and remove the dead wood. Remove any out-of-place stems. Apply 1 cup of slow-release lawn fertilizer and for the hybrid tea roses, began the weekly spray program, acephate or spinosad for thrips and triforine for black spot.
If you had problems with weeds last winter, apply a pre-emergent herbicide early in the month. Amaze or XL work well for grassy weeds such as rescue grass. Use Portrait or a similar product to control broadleaf weeds such as beggar’s lice, dandelions, bedstraw and thistle.
To reduce the likelihood of brown patch, reduce the amount of water you apply to the lawn. If you do water, do it in the morning rather than the evening. A dry lawn rarely is infected by brown patch.
Wait to fertilize the lawn until about October 1. At that point the grass plants have reacted to cooler nights and a shorter day to change from a growth to a storage mode. Fertilizer applied early next month will not result in excessive, vulnerable growth going into the cold weather.
Your fruit trees should still have good, productive foliage. If they do and growth was less than 18 inches last spring, give them a dose of lawn fertilizer (1 cup every 2 inches of diameter) spread over the roots.
Hummingbirds are very active in September. Take advantage of their presence by putting up extra sugar water feeders and with containers of firebush, pentas, zinnias and firespike on the patio. Put the firebush and zinnias in full sun and put the firespike and pentas in the shade. As they move about the Central Texas area, maneuvering in preparation for heading south, we can expect black-throated, ruby-throated and rufous hummingbirds in our landscapes.
Calvin Finch Ph.D.is a Horticulturist and Director with Texas A&M Water Conservation and Technology Center.