Master Gardener's Column
Valli Hardgrave September 2005

The kids are finally back in school, and it is so rewarding to stroll the morning garden and take enjoyment from our spring and summer garden toil. Take the opportunity to make a garden journal and record what has worked well and what changes might need to be made for the next season's garden. 

Summer is on the wane but September is still a busy month. Cooler days and more frequent rain bring on the second planting season. Here are a few September garden chores to consider:

(1) September is one of the best months of the entire year for seeding or sodding new lawns. Lawns are still in active growth, so continue to water and mow as needed. Resod or reseed areas that did not make it through the summer heat. (Remember, however, that an early cold spell can cause damage.) Apply pre-emergent herbicide for control of winter weeds between September 10-20. The timing of the application is critical. Pre-emergents keep weed seeds from germinating. Once the weeds have germinated, these products will have no effect on growth. There are many brands marketed. Read labels carefully to determine which brand is best for your needs.

(2). This is a great time to divide, transplant or share iris, Louisiana iris, day lily and calla lily with your fellow gardeners. While the plants are out of the ground, it is an excellent time to rework the soil and add generous amounts of organic matter. Replant with a small amount of granular fertilizer and water it well. A premium, slow release rose fertilizer with a 3:1:2 ratio works well to nourish Texas rhizomes and bulbs.

(3.) Continue to deadhead and water roses. If you did not get around to fertilizing last month, this month will be the last fertilizing required for this season. Roses that were not cut back in August should be cut back in early September; however, this means that they will come into bloom a little later. Over the next two months, some of the finest blooms of the year will be produced in great abundance! It is still too hot to plant roses, so wait for our cooler October temperatures.

(4). Most perennials can be dug and transplanted during the next couple of months. Do not move perennials that are in bloom now or will be in bloom later on this fall. A small amount of premium quality, slow release fertilizer may be placed in the planting hole. Water throughly. A liquid root stimulator may be used to help establish the root systems. Mulch lightly.

(5). Sow wildflower seeds this month and on into early October. Purchase mums in buds, not full bloom, for longest production. Plant them in well drained soil with plenty of organic matter. Preferred locations should receive at least 6 hours of full sun with some afternoon shade. Mulch lightly and fertilize with a water-soluble fertilizer every other time you water.

(6).  Harvest herbs: Continue to remove the flowering spikes from basil to encourage the plants to continue providing leaves. Preserve harvested herbs by drying or freezing. To freeze, rinse the leaves and blot dry. Place chopped leaves in a freezer bag in a 1/2 inch layer. This will allow you to break off only the amount as needed. Force out as much air as possible. Label and date the bag. To dry, rinse and blot dry. Make small bundles of 4 or 5 stems tied together. Hang the bundles upside down in a cool, dry location. When the leaves are dry, (about 2 weeks), crumble and store in a tightly sealed, labeled and dated container.

(6). Harvest and store perennial seeds: Gathering seeds for next year's garden is a great, cost-effective way to extend not only your own garden, but your friend's and neighbor's gardens as well. It is always a welcome gift to receive "freebie" seedlings in the spring! Harvest seeds when they are mature. Allow seeds to dry in a cool, dark, dry location. Placing seeds on a wire screen allows air to circulate through and around them. I have found, however, that a flat shallow box, shaken occasionally, works just as well for me. When the seeds are dry, shake them loose from any plant matter if needed. Store the seeds in something that allows them to breathe. Small paper envelopes work well. Label, date and make note of specifics such as: full sun, part sun, shade, etc.

(7). Some of the best quality vegetables are produced during the warm days and cool nights of the fall season. Some cool season vegetables that can be planted this month are: bush snapbeans, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, swiss chard, turnip greens, mustard, spinach, bunching onions and root crops (carrots, beets, etc.).

September is a wonderful time to visit your local garden retailers to purchase those spring bulbs. Bulbs should be in your hands for planting in October and November. September days in Texas frequently go above 90 degrees, so while bulbs are available you can go ahead and purchase, but there is no hurry to plant them.

In closing, please remember our nation in prayer. I am reminded what a luxury it is to have our homes, our gardens and our families intact while others in our nation are in such dire straits. May God bless our country and fellow countrymen.

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