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 1999 - Still Hot but Change is in the Air

September is normally every bit as hot and wet as the proceeding summer months but there is a definite feeling of change in the air.  The days have grown perceptibly shorter and nature  has entered a stage of late season maturity and ripeness apparent in the shrubs and grasses in pastures and along roadsides and other natural areas.

While you and I may not feel it and mere thought of lawn mowing and other garden chores can cause profuse perspiration, nature senses the shifting seasons.  In wetter areas, willow and red maples are beginning to display hints of their fall colors and over head the first swallows returning from up north can be seen coursing back and forth in search insect prey.

September can be one of our wettest months 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 warm wet weather to establish new trees and shrubs, particularly the more tropical varieties such as palms, in the landscape. This is also a good time to prune cold sensitive shrubs and ornamentals such as bougainvillea, hibiscus and crotons one last time for the season.

Late summer caterpillars including army worms may attack trees and shrubs in great numbers causing rapid and dramatic defoliation in some instances.  These can be controlled with several of the Bt formulations as well as other insecticides if this becomes necessary.  While such devastating attacks may be alarming, rest assured that healthy plants will quickly recover without the application of any insect control measures.

September is a prime month for butterflies and it is easy to spot as many as dozen different species at one time.  Some commonly observed butterflies include the buckeye, cloudless sulphur, giant swallowtail, great southern white, queen,, white peacock and zebra among others.
It is quite easy to attract these delightful creatures to your garden by planting a variety of annual and perennial flowers.

The popular attraction with butterflies has lead 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.

September is an excellent time for fertilizing plantings the last time for the year.  Apply a recommended rates of a  complete fertilizer to lawns as well as trees and shrubs.  Hard to green-up lawns and shrubs may respond to iron.

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.  There is a reason why commercial growers use raised beds on over 45,000 acres of vegetables in SW Florida and you will profit from their example.

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.

Pray that we are once again spared from the ravages of a major hurricane or tropical storm and 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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