Sept. 2013 To-Do List: Lower South

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September is a month for looking back over the triumphs and mistakes of the summer garden season. If you’ve kept your tomatoes disease free, or at least pruned off the diseased branches and kept moisture consistent, you probably are still harvesting. If not, your poor tomato plants are yellowed and withered and your sandwiches are less tasty for lack of fat red slices. Nonetheless, the joy of gardening is that there is always another season and no mistake is forever.  As you do your summer cleanup and prepare for fall crops, make a few notes about which cultivars did well and which didn’t, so you can make good choices next spring. Now, on to fall!

Vegetables

  • Keep everything cleanly picked to keep producing until frost, around Nov. 15.
  •  Keep tomatoes producing with a little balanced fertilizer or compost side dressing.
  • Prepare for your fall garden by spreading compost over your beds, digging it in and planting collards, cabbage, kale, turnips, mustards and chard. Sow seeds directly in the ground or set out transplants.
  • Once the seeds are up, cover with row cover to keep the late season bugs at bay. The row cover will do double duty as cold weather approaches, extending the season until temperatures drop below freezing.
  • Dig another bed for fall root crops such as garlic, onions, carrots and potatoes. Dig deeply and amend with coarse sand (unless your soil is already dominated by sand) and plenty of organic matter.
  • Sow carrot seeds thinly in rows six to eight inches apart. Thin seedlings to four to six inches apart. If you have clay soil, try ‘Nantes’ or miniature cultivars, which adapt to heavy soil.
  • Tuck onion sets in everywhere they will fit. Don’t plant too deeply as the bulbs like to break through the soil surface.
  • Try hardneck, softneck and elephant garlic to see which ones you like best. Bury the cloves three times their length deep with the pointed ends up. Harvest when the leaves begin to yellow.

Perennials

  • Plan new flowerbeds and refresh old ones with compost and new mulch.
  • Order or buy seeds and bulbs for fall planting of perennials. 
  • Divide daylilies, iris and peonies now. Cut the leaves of lilies and iris back to about 12 inches and replant healthy rhizomes shallowly. Iris benefit from a little bone meal in their beds.
  • Make sure your C. japonicas have beautiful blooms. Dig in that last dose of fertilizer now. Also look at the flower buds on your bushes. Wherever you find two buds together, pinch one off to make for a larger, longer lasting bloom from the bud left.

Annuals

  • Plant seeds of hardy annuals and fall bedding plants such as chrysanthemums.
  • Cut back leggy stems of flowering annuals; you may get another flush of blooms.
  • Plant a last bunch of zinnias for fall blooms.

Trees and Shrubs

  • Some shade trees that can handle heat: Southern sugar or Florida maple; red, scarlet or swamp maple; southern magnolia; laurel, swamp or sweet bay magnolia; southern or rusty blackhaw; post and scarlet oak; river or red birch. Conifers (some are evergreens) that work in heat are Arizona cypress; bald cypress, pond cypress, arborvitae, and loblolly pine. Ornamentals include crape myrtle, star magnolia, ginkgo, rose of Sharon or shrub althea, and bay laurel.

Lawns

  • If you plan to over-seed your Bermuda with winter rye next month, stop fertilizing. Following a light de-thatching this month, over-seed at the end of the month and into October.
  • If you are not planting a winter lawn, add about 10 pounds of Ironite for every 1,000 square feet of turf with a broadcast spreader (100 ft  x100 ft).
  • Most turf will benefit from core aeration and de-thatching.
  • Fertilize your lawn when it’s cool to promote root growth. Use a slow release fertilizer with iron and a higher potassium rating (‘K’ of the NPK ratio).

Image: SS/Sunny Forest

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