Second growing season offers opportunities
By Bob Hearle
In case you haven’t noticed schools are open. I asked a neighbor’s son why he didn’t carry any books or notebooks home from school. He replied that he took notes on his electronic tablet. He also said he could access all his textbooks and resources on line using the same device. It also allows him to text his friends for help if needed and when bored to play games. Wow, if we could only teach it to recognize weeds and pull them! With opening of school we are reminded that fall is coming and we need to re-direct our focus once more on our gardens and landscapes.
This has been a particularly hot and dry summer which takes its toll or new and weak plants alike. Hopefully you were vigilant and watered as needed. Do not cultivate your annual and perennial beds as many roots are near the surface and would be injured. Do however re-mulch the beds if less than 1 inch of mulch remains. When you water do so deeply so the roots go down and are not on the surface where they are susceptible to heat and physical damage.
South Carolina has a second growing season so it’s not too late to plant seeds of fast annuals such as marigolds, zinnias and impatiens. The same is true for certain crops. Beans, beets, cauliflower, broccoli, lettuce and squash as well as others can be planted now. Check the number of days until harvest and then determine if you have time before the average first frost date for your area. Nov. 15 in the Coastal Plain is usually safe.
Plant as you would in spring and water and fertilize just like then. Sue Myers offers a course in second season gardening through the OLLI program at the Waccamaw Higher Education Center.
Start to plan for bringing your houseplants back indoors (Yeah, I know we haven’t even started fall yet). Make sure you have the correct containers, soil and a proper location for adequate light and ease of watering.
I have a friend who has a glass block window in his shower. He puts several plants in there for overwintering and he assures me it feels almost tropical to cozy up to a stag horn fern and other similar plants in winter. Make sure you spray them with insecticidal soap before bringing them in and consider pruning them back as well.
Lawns should be inspected thoroughly at this time. If they appear to have declined recently you should consider the following: your grass variety, your fertilization as well as mowing practices. In addition how did you water your grass in this summer drought? Too much water, too little water, or did you water at the wrong time of day?
Now is a great time to have your soil tested (see the first column) and apply fertilizer as recommended on the test analysis. Consider de-thatching and reseeding, following directions on the seed container. Fertilize centipede grass now using 1-1/2 pounds nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of lawn and fertilize St. Augustine using 2-3 pounds nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. However, if you have the soil tested use their recommendations.
Do not fertilize shrubs now as it will cause vigorous growth as we enter Winter months, exposing new tender shoots to extreme cold. If you must fertilize, use the slow release variety.
Hope you had a good summer, that your garden was good to you and that you had a chance to visit some of the public gardens we mentioned here.
Next: More fall to-do tips as well as a discussion of the new fall catalogs arriving daily. Be cautious ordering plants for which there are no hardiness zones provided unless you know from first hand experience they do well here.
Bob Hearle is a certified master gardener who lives and gardens at Pawleys Island.