Here’s hoping there will be a favorable turn to this miserable weather pattern. Rain would be a blessing! Gardeners whose energy and enthusiasm may have been sapped by the summer heat will be inspired once again to work in the yard and garden to prepare for fall and winter. September is a swing month in the garden, since summer has not completely left us yet, but fall days are right around the corner. To help keep your gardening juices flowing, here’s some things that can be done this month.
Vegetables. For a fall and winter harvest of delicious vegetables, the following can be sown or transplanted in September (wait a couple of weeks for hopefully milder weather): beets, broccoli (plants), Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower (plants), Swiss chard, collards, kale, garlic, lettuce, mustard, parsley, English peas, radish, spinach and turnips. To help with germination, try soaking beet, Swiss Chard and spinach seed in cool water for several hours before sowing. Also, consider starting them indoors where it’s cooler in a sunny window. Sow into 3 inch pots with a high quality potting mix designed for starting seeds.
Getting seed up in this heat and hot soil can be a challenge. Here’s a tip to help the process. Soak the soil in seed furrows with water before sowing seed, cover to the proper depth with dry soil and a light layer of fine mulch. You might also place a long 1×4 board, or moist burlap, down the row for extra shade and cooling. Check daily and remove at the first sign of seedling emergence. This treatment will aid seed germination and reduce soil crusting which can impede tender emerging seedlings.
Water the garden regularly to promote germination and growth of young seedlings. Use drip irrigation to minimize waste and accurately place water right down the row where water is needed the most. This targeted watering will also reduce weed seed germination between rows. Apply a thick layer of mulch between rows and around transplants to keep soil cooler, reduce evaporation, and reduce weed germination. Treat cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) as needed to prevent damage from cabbage loopers.
Keep your summer vegetables, like squash, okra and peppers, productive by harvesting frequently, and sidedress with a little nitrogen to give them one last productive push for a fall harvest.
Did most of your vegetable plants seem to languish this summer? Have you ever had your soil tested? Many soils in East Texas have strongly acidic soil, and most vegetable plants do not grow or produce well in acidic soil. Now would be a good time to get a soil test (before you apply any fertilizer or amendments). While you are at it, get a second soil test for your lawn.
Roses. If weather conditions moderate, then consider lightly pruning your roses in early September to stimulate a new flush of growth for a beautiful, last flush of color in October. This is what they’ll be doing in the Rose Garden in early September in anticipation of the Texas Rose Festival this October.
Lawn Care. For help on watering your lawn, see my last post about about using the TexasET Network (http://texaset.tamu.edu/). Mow your lawn regularly (mowing overgrown grass puts it under stress, and our lawns don’t need that right now). I would suggest holding off on the fall application of fertilizer until we get a break in this weather. Fertilizing will stimulate more growth, which will require even more water. Lawns can be fertilized (lightly) as late as early October – this will help the grass build up food reserves during October and November to better make it through the winter months.
Did you have a lot of weeds last winter and spring before the grass started growing? Annual bluegrass (Poa annua), chickweed and henbit are the most common weeds of the winter season. These are classified as cool-season weeds, germinating during the fall and winter months as soon as the soil cools. A pre-emergence herbicide (weed preventer) applied when the weather starts cooling off (not now) will help reduce the recurrence of the same weeds next spring.
Avoid herbicide applications on weakened grass (from pests or drought) or in dense shade. Carefully follow label rates of application, since applying more than the label rate can damage your lawn. Also keep in mind that you cannot overseed a lawn with ryegrass or tall fescue if you use a pre-emergence herbicide to control grassy weeds.