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OPINION | JANET B. CARSON: Breaking Ground

by Janet B. Carson September 3, 2022 at 1:44 a.m.
Options for fall color range from sturdy gourds and bright mums to cool-season vegetables and replanted summer crops. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Janet B. Carson)


Wow! What a difference a month makes.

From our horrid July, we had a most pleasant August. While we did have some hot and humid days, we had very mild conditions and even quite a bit of rain, which is not common for August in Arkansas. I will take it, and our gardens will too.

The summer of 2022 has not been our best gardening season ever, but gardens have really started rebounding with the nicer August weather, and of course, rain helped too. Let's keep our fingers crossed that September will be just as nice.

◼️ Now is a great time to start replanting and gearing up for a fall garden. The signs of fall are popping up in retail outlets everywhere, with spring bulbs, pumpkins, mums and even pansies. While you may be ready for fall, start planting sparingly. September has been known to be hot and dry, and pansies in particular will get leggy if exposed to too much heat.

◼️ Pumpkins can last for months as fall and winter color, but choose them with strong stems and a smooth, blemish-free rind.

◼️ Spring bulbs can be bought now, but wait for the weather to cool off a bit before planting. If you have an extra refrigerator, consider giving the bulbs some extra chilling. You don't want to store them with other fruits and vegetables, but an empty hydrator drawer works well. Plant when you have time in mid-October through December.

◼️ For many of us, extra color is needed to fill in some voids, and we can start planting. Mums can give you instant color if you need it, but if you want them to last longer, choose plants with some color but plenty of buds. Don't let them dry out after planting.

◼️ Other fall options include violas (which will take more heat), dianthus, Diascia, flowering kale and cabbage, Swiss chard, and even a replanting of petunias and calibrachoa. If your summer annuals look good, continue to fertilize and water, and they should last until a hard frost.

◼️ Just like refurbishing your color beds, now is a great time to spruce up your vegetable gardens. Fall gardening season is here. Transplants are available for broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower, but you can also find lettuce plants or plant from seed now. Seed carrots, spinach, greens and kale for a fall garden. Water and mulch, and do scout for problems regularly.

◼️ Cleanup in the garden is an ongoing process, and as plants play out, getting them out of the garden will reduce problems later, especially if diseases or insects played a part in their demise. Don't add diseased plants to a home compost pile. Typically, the piles don't get uniformly hot enough to kill disease organisms or weed seeds, so don't put them in.

◼️ Some early perennials and spring-blooming deciduous shrubs have started to go dormant now as well. You don't have to wait for a killing frost to cut back perennials, but don't prune spring-blooming trees or shrubs now or you will be cutting off next year's blooms.

◼️ Warm-season lawn grasses can be fertilized one more time this year, but do it soon. We don't want to spur on too much new growth too late in the season. Try to keep the lawn mowed to prevent weed seeds from forming, but starting a weed eradication program this late might not help much.

◼️ If you have weeds in flower beds, spot spray, hoe or hand-pull to prevent seeds from setting that will bring those weeds back next season.

◼️ Perennial weeds such as poison ivy and Virginia creeper can be treated now and with better results than in the spring. Just as our trees and shrubs store nutrients for the winter, these perennial weeds will send the killing herbicides down to the root system now. Just make sure to treat only what you are trying to kill. Avoid getting any herbicides on trees, shrubs, flowers and edibles.

◼️ Basil has done exceptionally well this season, but it won't last in cool weather. A hard pruning now will give you another round of foliage. Then let it flower and set seeds to provide food for the birds and to reseed itself for next year. Use the pruned foliage to dry or make pesto.

◼️ If you have perennial herbs such as rosemary, sage, thyme and lavender, don't over-harvest now.

◼️ Now is a great time to plant parsley and cilantro for a fresh supply of both all winter.

Janet Carson's blog is at arkansasonline.com/planitjanet.

Print Headline: Breaking ground


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