We are in the transition from summer to fall. While there are likely still some hot days ahead, it is time to begin planting some cool-season vegetables and flowers, and take steps to prevent some common weeds, diseases and pests that soon will be arriving.
Fool poinsettias and holiday cactus
Place a cardboard box over poinsettia and holiday [Thanksgiving and Christmas] cactus plants around 5 to 6 p.m. and remove it in the morning to fool the plant into thinking that the nights have become longer. Continue the procedure for about four weeks to induce the bloom response in time for the holidays. Short days along with nights in the 60s will encourage development of good color.
Saving seeds for next year
Collect seeds from non-hybrid annuals and perennials that have gone to seed. Seeds from hybrids don’t produce offspring true to type. Spread seeds on a newspaper indoors and allow them to dry for a week. Then store them in a sealed jar in the refrigerator or freezer with a label indicating what they are.
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Cool season cole crops
September is the start of cole crop planting season in vegetable gardens. These include broccoli, cauliflower, collards, cabbage, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts and kale. We also can begin to plant beets, Chinese cabbage, collards, mustard, carrots, chard, garlic, peas, radish and turnips this month.
Brown patch season arrives soon
September marks the beginning of the brown patch season on our southern St. Augustine lawns. Avoid early and excessive nitrogen fertilization and frequent watering which predisposes turf to attack from this cool-season fungus. If your lawn is plagued by the large brown circles each fall, a preventative fungicide applied in the next week or two can help. Once circles appear such fungicide applications don’t accomplish much since most of the damage has been done.
Check outdoor houseplants
Repot or cut back overgrown plants, remove damaged shoots and leaves, and fertilize them with a soluble plant food to invigorate them and get them in top shape. Also check them over for pest infestations such as mites, mealybugs, aphids and whiteflies, as these are easier to get in control before the plants come back inside for the winter.
Control fire ants
Fire ants can really spoil the outdoor experience when they infest compost piles, lawns and gardens. Early fall is an excellent time to control them. Low toxicity products are available, including baits and individual mound treatments. Apply baits late in the day when ants are out foraging. A good way to tell if they are active is to toss a paper chip or section of hot dog on the ground and check back in 15 minutes to see if they are feeding on it.
Protect rose foliage
Roses took a big hit in the summer drought but now is when they prepare for their big fall show. Leaf diseases such as powdery mildew and black spot can seriously weaken plants if left unchecked. Fertilize the plants and water it well to support good vigor. Protect their foliage from diseases and pests to ensure good carbohydrate production which promotes good bloom and good plant health going into the winter season.
Replenish mulch in flower and shrub beds
Winter weeds will begin germinating later this month and next. Check the depth of mulch in flower beds and around landscape shrub. Add a little where needed to maintain a 3-4 inch depth. This will help deter weed seed germination, hold in moisture and moderate soil temperatures during a hard winter freeze.
Robert “Skip” Richter is the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension horticulture agent for Brazos County. For local gardening information and events, visit brazosmg.com. Gardening questions? Call Skip at 823-0129 or email email@example.com.
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