In the Garden
Last summer was historically hot and rainy. This summer has been historically hot and dry. What happened to our rainy season? Our soil, such as it is, is so dry and plants are struggling under the scorching sun. September tends to be one of the rainiest months, as well as the height of the hurricane season. However, this year as we transition into autumn a predicted La Niña will create drier than normal and unusually warm conditions through the winter months. But as the sun shines less fiercely we should be able to enjoy pleasant hours in the garden – well protected by sunscreen and mosquito repellent. HAPPY GARDENING!
WHAT TO PLANT Annuals/Bedding plants: If summer beds need refreshing, try coleus, cosmos, gaillardia, impatiens, marigold, vinca, salvia, zinnia, ageratum, celosia, and wax begonia for color into fall. See excellent website Annuals:
Bulbs: Bulbs to plant include African lily (Morea sp.), amaryllis, crinum lily, society garlic, Aztec lily, calla lily, narcissus, shell ginger (Alpiniazerumbet), gladiolus, spider lily (Hymenocallis), and rain lily. Add color, texture, and pattern to the garden with the many varieties of elephant’s ear that are available. See Bulbs for Florida:
Herbs: Plant herbs that tolerate the warm temperatures of early fall, such as Mexican tarragon, basil, chives, garlic chives, sage, sweet marjoram, thyme, mint, and rosemary. See Herbs:
Strawberries: Prepare planting areas by adding organic matter and then plant. Strawberries are only planted in Central Florida during September and October so don’t delay.
Vegetables: Numerous cool-season (as well as warm-season) crops can be planted. See Vegetable Gardening in Florida:
Vegetables that can be planted this month are beans, sweet corn, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, English & southern peas, summer squash, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, celery, collards, endive/escarole, kale, leek, lettuce, mustard, onions (bulbing, bunching or multipliers), turnips and sow radish seeds. Vegetable seeds that can be started in early September for transplanting in October include beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts (try “Bubbles”), cabbage, cauliflower, celery, collards, Chinese cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, leek, lettuce, mustard, English peas, and spinach.
WHAT TO DO
• Prune poinsettias one last time the first week in September and then place where they will not have any light at night. Even a little interrupts the reproductive cycle and prevents flowering.
• It’s the last month to prune bougainvillea if you want spring blooms.
• You can still take cuttings and divide perennials but do it as soon as possible. Days are getting shorter and the decrease in sunlight signals plants to slow their growth. Cuttings will not root as quickly.
• Sod or plugs can still be laid to fill in St. Augustine lawns.
• Continue to monitor the lawn for signs of insect damage. Fall armyworms, chinch bugs, mole crickets, and sod webworms are still active this month. See Turf grass Pest Insects:
• Divide and replant perennials and bulbs that have grown too large or need rejuvenation. Add organic matter to new planting areas and monitor water needs during establishment. See Seeds and Propagation (Lawn and Garden):
• Check that irrigation systems are providing good coverage and operating properly before summer rains taper off. See Landscape Irrigation:
• Spray citrus tree foliage on both sides with Maxicrop. In October fertilize trees with a balanced fertilizer. See Home Citrus Culture:
• Prepare your fall vegetable garden in containers or the ground if not done in August. Using transplants from your local garden center will get the garden off to a fast start, but seeds provide a wider variety from which to choose. See Vegetable Gardening in Florida:
• Plant Ornamental Grasses. Ornamental grasses provide wonderful wispy accents, whether planted in clusters or as single accent plants. Muhly grass, a Florida native, has beautiful pink blooms that sway in the autumn breeze. Often you’ll see them planted in highway medians, where they have a beautiful, dramatic affect. Other great grasses for our area include red fountain grass (photo, below), white fountain grass, pink pampas grass, and cord grass.
GARDEN QUOTE “A weed is a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered .” Ralph Waldo Emerson GARDEN INSPIRATION