If you’re like me, you’re ready for a weather change! It has been a hot, dry summer, hard on plants and on enthusiasm for gardening or just being outdoors. But, the month of September brings with it a promise of better things to come. If you have been planning a landscape or garden project, hang in there, and the weather will be changing for the better.
As a matter of fact, fall in the south is often called the second gardening season. Winters here are typically mild to moderate, and plants set out and established in the fall will get a big jump on next year’s growing season.
Lawn Care. Pay attention to lawn care this month. Hot, dry weather can encourage chinch bugs which can turn St. Augustine into what looks like a drought-stricken lawn. Double check your sprinklers carefully to make sure they are applying all that you expect in an even, uniform pattern.
September through early October is the time to make the final lawn fertilizer application in order to keep the grass healthy and growing up to first frost. Fall-fertilized lawns are better equipped to make it through the winter and resume growth next spring than lawns that receive no fertilizer.
Fall is an ideal time to apply lime to correct acidic soil conditions, although liming can be done at any time of the year. The chemical changes lime brings about in the soil take place over a period of several months, so, when growth resumes next spring, the pH of the soil will be more conducive for plant growth.
Soil Testing. Strongly acidic soil can also be responsible for poor growth of vegetables in the garden. Only a soil test can identify the pH of your soil and confirm any need for additions of lime to adjust the pH. Every County Extension office in Texas has information and forms for submitting soil for testing to the Soil Testing Laboratory at Texas A&M in College Station. The form is also available online at http://soiltesting.tamu.edu
Lawn Weed Control. Think back to last spring. Did you have lawn weeds in February and March before the grass started growing? Those were cool-season weeds, most of which germinated last fall. A pre-emergence herbicide (weed preventer) applied in September will help reduce the recurrence of the same weeds next spring (unless they are perennials like dandelions). Avoid pre-emergent 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. If henbit, chickweed and lawn burweed were the main problems, then look for an herbicide with active ingredient isoxaben (eg. Portrait). This pre-emergent herbicide will safely prevent many broadleaf weed types without harming your lawn. It will not control grassy weeds like Poa anna, also called annual bluegrass.
Vegetables. For a fall and winter harvest of delicious vegetables, the following can be sown or transplanted: beets, broccoli (plants), Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower (plants), Swiss chard, collards, kale, garlic, lettuce, mustard, parsley, English peas, radish, spinach and turnips.
Trees and Shrubs. Frequently check the soil around first-year trees and shrubs with your fingers to make sure the root ball and soil are getting enough water. At the same time, take care to not keep the soil soaking wet. Just because it’s hot doesn’t automatically mean the soil is dry 3 or 4 inches deep. Check it out that deep to be sure. Shallow-rooted plants like azaleas, Japanese hollies and dogwoods are especially prone to drought stress.
Examine your flower, ground cover and shrub beds for seedlings of privet, sweetgum, oaks, elms, blackberry, greenbriar, sedges and other unwanted weeds. If they are already well established, wait for soaking rains to soften the ground when they’ll be a little easier to pull or dig. A pair of pliers may also help get woody plants out of the ground. If tree seedlings break off, they will resprout. If that happens, they’ll be harder to pull next time. A hand trowel or sharpshooter shovel are also handy for removing these stubborn weeds, especially greenbriar.
Pine needles will soon be abundant. Collect and use them as a long lasting mulch around shrubs, young trees, and in vegetable gardens and other places where weed control and water conservation is needed.
Perennials. September and October is an ideal time to dig and divide crowded perennials like iris, daylilies, shasta daisies, liriope, perennial phlox, columbine, other spring-blooming perennials and groundcover plants. Transplanting at this time will give them plenty of time to become well established prior to winter’s cold and then bloom next spring and summer. Water frequently after transplanting to prevent drying.