For most Texas gardeners, the summer heat has felt never-ending, and rain has been extremely sparse, creating a need to prioritize which plants to water, and which can wait.
“Unfortunately, water remains the name of the game as we move into September,” said Larry Stein, Ph.D., a horticulturist with the AgriLife Extension Service at Texas A&M, Uvalde, and a professor in the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Horticultural science. “September is usually the transition month from summer to fall, but there are often many 100-degree days in September as well.”
September also usually brings much-needed fall showers, so don’t give up hope, Stein said.
“It’s been a very hot and dry summer, and a lot of the plants are hurting and some of them seem to be dying,” Stein said. “Water as best you can now, pray for rain and wait there until it comes.”
With the U.S. Drought Monitor showing most of Texas ranging from abnormally dry to exceptionally dry, very few parts of the state are getting the rain crops and gardens people need right now. Currently, more than 75% of the state is in drought, affecting more than 23.5 million people.
“Maintaining adequate moisture in the lawn and landscape is the No. 1 priority in late summer and fall,” Stein said.
Texans struggling with water restrictions will have to continue to choose where they put their water and how best to conserve it.
“Ideally, one should water trees and shrubs by giving them at least one inch of water weekly, delivered slowly, around the plants away from the drip irrigation line,” he said.
The Texas A&M AgriLife Gardening Guide released last month provides additional guidance on watering during drought as well as some conservation tips.
Critical time for pecans, green fruit plants and berries
For Texans having to prioritize where to use water, keep in mind that now is a critical time for pecans.
“Pecans need to have enough water to fill the kernels and promote healthy opening of the shell,” Stein said. “A lack of water will reduce the fullness of the nut and delay the opening of the shell.”
Plants that already have fruits or berries in the green stage need to pay special attention during drought. Lack of moisture can cause the fruit to drop as well as reduce size and affect colour.
When thinking ahead to decorate for the holiday season, Stein said keep an eye on your holly plants. Water is needed so that the berries reach their festive shade and remain on the plant until it is time to use. Owners of these plants also state that raw holly berries are toxic to people and pets.
Garden tips for September
Rejuvenation of geraniums and begonias
Rejuvenate heat-stressed geraniums and begonias for the fall season with light pruning, fertilizing and watering.
Apply light fertilizer
Deadhead roses and other perennials and then apply a light fertilizing for fall blooms.
Prune dead or diseased wood from trees and shrubs, but hold off on major pruning until midwinter. Pruning now may stimulate tender growth before frost.
Divide flowering perennials
Divide spring-flowering perennials such as iris, Shasta daisy, Gaillardia, cannas, daylilies, violets, liriope and ajuga. Repot these sections into well-prepared soil with generous amounts of organic matter applied in the top 8 to 10 inches. Water well.
Prepare the soil for the bulbs
Prepare garden beds for spring flowering bulbs as soon as possible. It is important to cultivate the soil and add large amounts of organic matter to improve water drainage. Bulbs will rot without proper drainage.
Think seasonal color
Flower farms at this time can provide natural color for three seasons in the central, eastern and southern parts of Texas. Annuals released early enough will bloom as soon as Thanksgiving and often continue until Memorial Day.
Do not plant annuals until the weather cools
Annuals that should soon be available in nurseries and garden stores include petunias, calendula and pansies. Resist the urge to plant until the weather cools.
Transplant biennial flowers such as bluebonnets
Now is also a good time to plant biennial flowers like poppies, larkspur, sweet peas, bluebells, etc.
Think about strawberries next spring
In addition, it is time to plant strawberry plants for harvest next spring.
Add mulch as needed
Renew the mulch around trees and shrubs. Mulch is essential for retaining moisture, so check for bare spots and add as needed.
Start planting cool-season vegetable seeds
Start cool-season vegetables, such as mustard, lettuce, arugula, broccoli, carrots and kale, from seed in well-prepared beds.
Harvest as many vegetables as you can
Harvest okra, peppers, squash and other vegetables often to encourage more production.
Now is a good time to evaluate the fire ant situation in your garden and develop a plan to control them.