Fall arrives this month and your plants know it. Fall may only be here on our calendars starting September 23rd but we are seeing some of the effects. After all it is still hot and humid during the days. Yet, there is something a bit different and your plants have noticed - The days are getting shorter. Right now we are experiencing almost equal day and night but that is enough of a difference to trigger some reactions in plants.
Have you noticed the leaves dropping on the crape myrtles? Well, some of this may be due to a lack of fertilizer and maybe some fungal leaf spot too. But the plant also knows not to give them quite as good a care and let them drop.
Figs are doing the same thing. As summer ends and fall months begin this plant stops producing the new growths that replace the fig rust damaged foliage. Another plant slowing growth and packing in the foliage for fall is the caladium. Plants that grew early in spring are the first to decline and those that started later will last maybe through October.
Now here is something very important. Some plants are going to be very sensitive to shorter days in just a matter of weeks. About the middle of October is when the poinsettia, Christmas cactus, holiday cactus and kalenchoe plants start to initiate their blooms. If you want to see them flower, they have to have no nighttime light. Just a flash of light during the night could delay or keep them from flowering.
Cactus should also be grown on the drier side at this time of the year and all feedings should be stopped. Just water when the surface soil begins to feel dry to the touch.
Plants know when fall arrives even though you and I may not be quite sure. Have you seen signs of fall?
Fruit and vegetable care:
- A new gardening season starts now; improve poor or old soils with lots of organic matter.
- Clear weeds from garden sites and till compacted soils prior to planting.
- Remove plastic covers from solarization treatments and plant without tilling.
- Tomato, pepper and eggplant need to be the first crops planted.
- Only keep healthy older tomato plants from spring into the fall.
- Additional warm season crops need to be in the ground before early October.
- Harvest sweet potatoes when the ground swells with the thick roots at the base of the plants.
- Provide trellises for tomatoes, cucumbers and similar growing crops.
- Use mulches to conserve water, control weeds and keep soil off leafy crops.
- Add vegetables to containers for patio and balcony gardens.
- Irrigate citrus trees once or twice a week during dry weather to maintain the fruit.
- Start seedlings of fall cool season crops later in the month.
- Lawns had a tough summer; start to control weeds and patch damaged sections.
- Many lawns have a hungry look; try an iron or minor nutrient product until feeding time.
- Check local ordinances to determine when lawn feedings can begin
- Fall lawn feedings begin in late September where permitted.
- Add new sod or plugs to summer damaged lawns.
- Moths cause no lawn damage but start looking for sod webworms and treat as needed.
- Chinch bugs usually continue into fall; treat at first sign of turf decline.
- Fire ants are frequently found in lawns; spot treat mounds then treat the entire lawn.
- Test your soil acidity and adjust as needed.
- Dry weather can return this month; wait to irrigate turf until leaf blades start to curl.
- Water turf separately from ornamental plantings.
- Begin fall weed control treatments at the end of the month.
- Lawn portions with grassy weeds are usually best removed and the areas sodded.
In the landscape:
- - Many landscapes have filled with weeds this summer; make removal a fall project
- - Ants are living in many container plantings; treat with an insecticide labeled for this use.
- - Check containers for plugged drainage holes; repot as needed.
- - Trim out of bounds shrubs and trees.
- - Remove declining annuals and replant with fresh warm season flowers.
- - Groom perennials to remove old flower heads and out of control shoots
- - Reduce root rot and similar problems at planting by adding new soil to container gardens.
- - Till flower beds and add organic matter or garden soils to sandy soils.
- - Chrysanthemums make attractive fall flowers but they only last a few weeks in the heat.
- - Give poinsettias a final pruning in early September; continue feedings.
- - Add new trees, shrubs, palms & sagos.
- - Feed palms lightly through October or use a slow release fertilizer 3 to 4 times a year.
- - Begin late September shrub and perennial feedings for fall.
- - Feed hanging baskets and orchids every other week.
House & foliage plant care:
- Gradually reduce feedings and waterings of Christmas and holiday cactus for fall.
- Decide which plants to bring indoors for the cooler months.
- Perform a final pruning and check for pests on foliage plants to eventually move indoors.
- Transplant foliage plants needing new containers to prepare for cooler fall weather.
- Feed foliage plants monthly or use a slow release fertilizer according to the label.
- Remove dust and pests with soapy water.
- Make cuttings to increase the foliage plant collection.
- Replace declining plants for fall.
Flowers: Ageratum, angelonia, begonia, blue daze, butterfly weed, cat's whiskers, celosia,
cleome, coleus, coreopsis, cosmos, garden mums, gaura, gazania, gerbera, goldenrod,
gomphrena, heliotrope, impatiens, jacobinia, lantana, marigold, melampodium, nicotiana,
pentas, periwinkle, ruellia, salvia, sunflower, sweet alyssum, torenia, verbena and zinnia
Vegetables: Early plantings include lima bean, snap bean, corn, cucumber, eggplant,
pepper, southern pea, rhubarb, squash, and tomato; End of the month crops include broccoli,
cabbage, celery, collard, endive, lettuce, mustard, onion, radish, strawberry and turnip
Herbs: Anise, basil, bay laurel, borage, chives, coriander, dill, lemon balm, lavender, Mexican
tarragon, mint, parsley, rosemary, sage, sweet fennel, sweet marjoram and thyme.
Bulbs: African iris, agapanthus, amaryllis, blackberry lily, bulbine, calla lily, crinum,
crocosmia, day lily, gladiolus, kaffir lily, narcissus, society garlic, spider lily, rain lilies and