Cooperative Extension Service 
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Hendry County Extension, P.O. Box 68, LaBelle, Florida 33975-0068   Phone (863) 674-4092

Hendry County Horticulture News

September 2000 - Fall is Just Around the Corner

September is surely one of the local gardeners' favorite months.  September will usher in some relief  from the temperature enforced doldrums which have limited all but the most enthusiastic gardening aficionado to a frantic perspiration soaked race to keep pace with lawn care chores.  The change is subtle to be sure, as temperatures may still rise into the mid nineties on a daily basis, but the extreme heat of summer is past and the fall growing season is here. Seasonal change is also apparent in the length of the day as we are rapidly approaching the fall equinox when days and nights are equal in duration.  By the end of September, fall will be in the air.

September can be one of our wet or dry depending on the occurrence and track of tropical weather systems which develop with regular frequency at his time of year.   Take advantage of this last six weeks or so of hot weather to establish new trees and shrubs, particularly the more tropical varieties such as palms and sagos to ensure good establishment before cooler temperatures arrive.  September is also a good time to time to trim unruly shrubs and bushes.  Pruning to late in the season may encourage tender new growth which could be susceptible to cold weather.  Be careful not to prune things like bougainvillea, gardenias, camellias and azaleas at this time as these plants have already formed next seasons floral buds.  Pruning these plants now will result in less flowers next year.

Poinsettias and Christmas cactus should be prepared now to ensure a good floral display for the holidays.  In the case of poinsettias, pinching should be stopped now to allow the formation of flower buds.  A good feeding and exposure to bright sunlight will help ensure profuse blossoms.  It is particularly important that both poinsettias and Christmas cactus be shielded from any artificial light source at night from now until after they have formed flowers or they may fail to form flower buds.  Christmas cactus should be maintained on the dry side to encourage blossoms.

September is a good time for the seasons final application of complete fertilizer to trees, shrubs and lawns to prepare them for the cooler drier months ahead.  This task can be done any time between now and the end of October.  Timing is not especially critical - the idea is give plants a boost while they are still actively growing and to avoid stimulating new growth too late in the
season when it might be prone to cold damage should  temperatures plummet.  For trees and bushes, use a complete fertilizer, such as 6-6-6 or 8-8-8 at the rate of ½ to 1 pound of fertilizer per year of age of the plant up to five years of age or five pounds per plant for large trees and bushes.  This amount should be reduced proportionately for smaller shrubs and perennials.  On alkaline soils or where leaf symptoms are apparent select a fertilizer blend with trace elements added.

Lawns should be fertilized with a complete fertilizer at the rate of 1 pound of nitrogen per 1000 square feet. To calculate the correct amount of fertilizer to apply divide the percent nitrogen (the first number on the label) into 100 to arrive at the amount of fertilizer that will provide one pound of nitrogen.  In all cases it is advisable to select a fertilizer that is slow release to avoid the
rapid loss of nutrients due to leaching.

September is a prime month for butterflies and it is easy to spot as many as dozen different species at one time.  It is quite easy to attract these delightful creatures to your garden by planting a variety of annual and perennial flowers.  Many garden centers to stock a variety of butterfly plants making it easy to plant an "instant" butterfly garden that will begin attracting these lovely aerialists immediately.  An area as small as ten square feet planted to a selection of butterfly plants will greatly increase the number of butterflies visiting your garden.  Remember that butterflies are very sensitive to insecticides and curtail your use of these chemicals if you hope to be successful.  Contact the Hendry County Extension Office for more information on butterfly gardening.

Now is the time to plant fall vegetable gardens.  At the beginning of the month, you can plant beans, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, squash and tomato.  Wait to the end of the month to plant cool season vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, celery, collards, lettuce, mustard, onion, radish and turnips.

Vegetable gardeners will find that planting on raised beds will give superior results.  Raised beds provide improved drainage and aeration for roots and stay warmer during cool weather.  All vegetables will profit from a generous addition of organic matter to the soil as well a sufficient fertilization..  In the absence of a soil test, mix  two and half pounds per 100 square feet of a complete fertilizer such as 6-6-6 or 8-8-8 into the ground before planting and be sure to side dress regularly for best results.

Be sure to practice timely weed control.  As few as two weeds per square foot can seriously reduce yields.  Mulching can help remove some of the labor involved.

Flowers to plant in September include begonias, blue daze, cat's whiskers, coleus, impatiens, marigold, periwinkle, salvia, sunflowers, verbena and zinnia.  Bulbs include: African iris, agapanthus, amaryllis, crinum, gladiolus, society garlic and rain lilies.

Let's hope that September will continue to bring much needed rain while sparing us from any major storms.  Good luck and good gardening.

Gene McAvoy is the horticulture agent with the Hendry County Extension Service.  Direct your horticulture questions to PO Box 68, LaBelle, FL 33975,  e-mail - or phone 863-674-4092 or  863-983-1598.  You are also welcome to visit the Hendry County Extension Office at 225 Pratt Blvd., LaBelle.   Office hours are from 8:00 - 5:00.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is an Equal Employment Opportunity - Affirmative Action Employer authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex, age, handicap or national origin.

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