As I drive around town, I am delighted by all the lovely gardens, so alive with color this year. People of all ages have embraced gardening as never before, since so many have been staying close to home. That trend can and will continue as we head into fall.
We are (hopefully) in the homeward stretch to end summer and begin fall. We can begin to transition our gardens, adding fall and winter vegetables, and begin to add fall and winter color options -- but don't move too quickly.
September has a notorious track record for staying hot and dry in Arkansas, with a few delightful days thrown in.Gallery: Goldenrod
Summer color should continue to shine until a killing frost, provided the plants receive ample moisture when dry. There is still plenty of time to add winter color well into October and even November.
◼️ Some gardeners are wrapping up their summer gardens. If you have plants that have started to decline, good sanitation is important. Cut back perennials that are dying back and add a fresh layer of mulch. Continue to dead-head perennials and annuals to keep them blooming at their best.
◼️ Fertilize summer annuals and vegetables to keep them producing. Make sure your plants are watered before fertilizing and then water the fertilizer in after application. Fertilizer can burn plants if you over-apply or if the plants are too dry.
◼️ Fall color options are showing up at nurseries and garden centers, with mums and asters along with Swiss chard, kale and some fall annuals. Petunias and calibrachoa are both fairly cold tolerant summer annuals and can add extra color now and into the early winter months depending on temperature.
◼️ Hold off on planting pansies until later in September, or even into October or early November. Pansies are fairly heat-sensitive and can get leggy quickly if exposed to extended hot weather. Violas are a bit more forgiving, as are Dusty Miller and dianthus. If you need some pick-me-up color, start planting.
◼️ Spring-blooming trees and shrubs have set and will continue to set flower buds for next spring's blooms. It is too late to prune or fertilize, so just water if they're dry.
◼️ Some trees started dropping leaves with the warm, dry weather we had in late August. As long as leaves are falling, I wouldn't worry. Trees use vast quantities of water daily and will often begin to shut down early if it gets dry. That is a safety net to preserve what energy they have to remain strong for the next season.
◼️ Summer vegetables are still producing, and with a break in the heat, many tomatoes have finally resumed ripening. Many gardeners are getting ample harvests of peppers, eggplant and okra along with their tomatoes.
◼️ Now is the time to begin planting transplants of broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and bok choy. You can seed lettuce, carrots, greens and spinach. Cool-season vegetables can be planted from now through mid-October. With just minimal winter protection, we can now garden year-round in Arkansas. Water will be critical to get new plants established. Scout weekly for any insect or disease pests, and keep after those weeds. It has been a weedy year.
◼️ Speaking of weeds, it is getting a bit late in the season to worry much about the summer lawn weeds, but you can start with pre-emergence for winter weeds. In Arkansas we grow primarily warm season grasses -- Zoysia is probably No. 1, with Bermuda a close second followed by St. Augustine and centipede in Central Arkansas and the southern counties and with some cool-season tall fescue in the northern tier.
This is the month to stop fertilizing warm-season grasses and begin repair efforts on the cool-season ones. If your warm-season lawn has not had much fertilization, you can apply one last application if you do it by Sept. 15.
◼️ Gradually raise the height of your lawn mower at this time to prepare for winter.
NATIVE PLANT OF THE MONTH
Our roadsides will soon turn gold with the flowering of goldenrod (Solidago species), a great native perennial.
Many people blame this showy fall bloomer for their hay fever woes, but the plant takes a bad rap -- when it is really ragweed with its inconspicuous fall blooms that is the culprit. The pollen on goldenrod is too large to float, so it isn't flying around and causing allergic reactions.
Goldenrod plants come in many sizes, with some very well-behaved varieties. The main species we see blooming along the highways and byways of Arkansas is the tall Solidago canadensis or Canada goldenrod. It is probably a bit too large and aggressive for most home gardens, but try some of the newer ones like "Fireworks," "Golden Cascade," "Golden Fleece" and "Goldrush" or some of the more compact species like S. caesia, the wreath goldenrod, or S. argute, the cutleaf goldenrod.
Not only will these plants provide weeks of yellow blooms, the flowers are a favorite of bees and butterflies, and the seeds are a food source for birds in the winter.
Most species prefer full sun, but the wreath goldenrod will do well in the woodland garden.
Once established, goldenrod is drought tolerant and fairly pest free.
Read Janet Carson's blog at arkansasonline.com/planitjanet.