Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Hendry County Horticulture News
September 1998 - Planting Possibilities Abound
Although it may not seem like it, September marks the beginning of a new season in our area. The change is subtle to be sure, while temperatures still rise into the mid nineties on a daily basis, the extreme heat of summer is past and the fall growing season is here. The change in temperature is nearly imperceptible, but can be felt particularly in the early mornings which are definitely a bit cooler than a few weeks ago. Nor is the mid day sun as intense as it was in the peak summer months of June, July and August. The 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 may also bring with it severe weather. This month is a time of active tropical weather systems that can bring high winds and rain and even the threat of hurricane. Given the unpredictable nature of these weather events, September can be very wet or if we are fortunate in that major storms pass us by, it can be very dry. This makes September a challenging time for gardeners as we must be prepared for a bit of everything.
September is a good time to consider a final application of complete fertilizer to trees, shrubs and lawns to prepare them for the cooler drier months ahead. This task should 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.
Large brown dead patches in Saint Augustine lawns may be the result of take-all root rot, a warm weather fungal disease which results from stress to the grass. This problem may be treated by raising the height of mowing to at least 3 inches, light fertilization with an acid forming fertilizer, top dressing, and applications of fungicides recommended for this disease.
September is the last month for transplanting palms and sagos for the year, 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.
With the coming of cooler weather, the planting calendar opens up again and a wide range of flowers and vegetables can again be planted. Flower beds and garden areas should be prepared now if this was not done in August. If possible a soil test should be performed. In the absence of a soil test, all soils will benefit from a generous addition of organic material. Five pounds of a complete fertilizer, such as 6-6-6, per 100 square feet should be worked into the soil before planting. An additional 2 ½ pounds of fertilizer per 100 feet should be banded to the side and below plantings.
Vegetable to plant this month include corn, cucumber, eggplant, green beans, lima beans, pepper, squash and tomato. Toward the end of the month this list can be expanded to include broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, collard, endive, lettuce, mustard, onion, radish, and turnips.
A wide range of flowers including begonias, blue daze, cockscomb, coleus, cosmos, dianthus, impatiens, marigold, periwinkle, salvia, sunflower, sweet peas, verbenas and zinnias can now be planted. Bulbs to be planted consist of amaryllis, callas, crinum lilies, gladiolus, society garlic and rain lilies. September has been a long time coming, enjoy it. 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 - firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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