Monthly Garden Tips – September 2013

These fun tips are developed to provide a little guidance this season with urban agriculture and backyard gardening.  Enjoy!
For the month of September:
  • Check watering system
  • Start composting
  • Start pruning shrubs & trees
  • Harvest fruit
  • Weeding
  • Plant care
  • Soil building & mulch
  • Support bees & ladybugs
  • Plant veggie
Watch Your Watering.
If you’re like me, you’ve been getting a lot of rain, and capturing it!  Check you’re soil moisture before turning off the watering system.  If you’ve already turned it off, check your soil moisture before turning it back on.  The temperatures are dropping slowly, but there is also a lot of humidity still looming, so things may not be as dry as they appear.  Now may also be a good time the check and adjust your timer watering schedule.  Knowing the difference between watering volume and watering frequency might be useful:
Garden irrigation timer (RD-900)
Compost.
Yep, I’m still saying it!  Compost! Compost! Compost!
Now is definitely a great time to be composting!  Just layer in your greens and browns, then all you have to do is water it.   Wet down the compost regularly (every-other-day, or daily of possible).   Even undisturbed compost can actually be quite active, and can significantly break down in 3-4months (bout end of summer).  Any material added to the compost, be sure to chop it up.  The smaller the material the better it breaks down.
See my quick tips video on composting:
Pruning.
End of summer is a great time for pruning.  Taking off some excess weight on branches that got bushy from summer growth will minimize damage during the late summer monsoons and fall wind storms.  For those of you in the warm spots of the southwest (like me), go easy for now.  Only prune about 3-5 cuts off of plants each week. This allows a bit more sunlight into the interior of the plant, stimulating new foliage growth, without causing much stress.  This also encourages blooming for some plants.
For those in nicer climes, get a little more active with the pruning.  You can still do a good heavy pruning on your summer-loving plants.  This will allow them to spend the fall filling back in for winter.
For pruning trees, only do about 1-3 major cuts per week, if forecast temps stay below 105* degrees.  Higher than that, suspend pruning trees til cooler.  And no pruning fruit trees until temps are consistently below 102* degrees. They need the full protection of their canopy.
For veggies, do some pruning to manage excess weight on branches. This also goes for massive amounts of fruit production.  Pruning off some fruit on veggies will encourage the remaining to fruit to more robust. (Instead of 20 golf ball-sized tomatoes, you’ll have 12 tennis ball-sized tomatoes.)
Garden_tools
Harvest them treats!
Birds will be looking for treats, so get ’em while YOU can.  This may need to be a daily task in the garden.  And with fruit trees, the ripening fruit will become a big mess on the ground, and attract lots of unpleasant pests.  Keep the birds at bay by covering plants and fruit trees using frost cloth (row cover fabric).
Tend to those weeds.
With the temps staying up and rains coming down, weeds pop up and bloom rapidly, spreading seeds all over your yard and neighborhood.  Be sure to deal with weeds often.  Particularly if your weeds are actually grass, like bermuda or nut sedge.  Get at ’em while the ground is wet, and try to extract as much of the root system as possible.  In a veggie garden, these ‘creatures’ can take over within a season.  If your soil on the dry hard side, give weedy areas a nice watering, then wait a day or two.  Pulling them up will be easier then.
bermuda-grass weed
Plant Care.
Right now, watch for water stress.  Brown leaves, yellow leaves, leaf drop, spindly branches – all this and more is likely due to watering.  Check soil moisture and perhaps back off watering by a day or so and see if plants can manage with less water.   What else to do? Mulch, Mulch, Mulch!  This will makes all things right in the garden.
As summer temperatures decline, the garden becomes a nice haven again for pests.  Be vigilant and observe things in the garden daily, especially in the vegetable garden.  Be on the look out for mites (spider mites, dust mites), squash bug (leaf-foot bugs), caterpillars (baby moths, baby butterflies),  and bird damage.  Not all chewed leaves are insects.  Even be aware of fungus issues, given rain, humidity, and winds.
Here are a few control measures:
– Hose off plants, shrubs, and trees every couple weeks to manage dust.
– Prune away diseased and damaged plant parts to prevent stress to plants.
– Pick off pests using sticky tape or tongs (cheapies from the dollar store).
– Apply DE (Diatomaceous Earth) directly on pests or in common areas for pests, like underside of leaves.  (DE is most effective on crawly things like squash bugs and mites; it acts on pests externally.)
– Apply Bt (Bacillus Thuringiensis) directly to leaves and fruit that get eaten. (Bt  is most effective on munching things like caterpillars; it acts on pests internally.)
Pest management - DE puffer
Build your garden soil.
This could be one of the simplest garden tasks of the season.  Just add compost/mulch to the top of the garden soil.  That’s it.  This goes for garden shrubs and fruit trees, as well as veggies.  The mulch (what’s on top) will: reduce the need to water as often; help keep shallow plant roots protected; cool the the ground; prevent soil from drying out; promote insects in the soil and provide organic nutrients for plants.  Makes everybody happy.
Garden mulch
Support your local bugs!
Make sure you have lots of flowers in the garden to keep your bees present and happy.  Buy some flowers at the nursery like coriopsis, cosmos, salvia, and lavender.  Also plant some seeds for them, which will come to into bloom later in the season.  You can even let your summer crop plants go to seed, as they will produce flowers in the process. Bees love these!  (broccoli and basil are their favorites!)
Ladybugs are making their entry now.  Soon as you see them in them in the nurseries and home center, buy ’em and set them free!  They belong out in nature.  And if they all leave you’re garden, don’t feel bad. That just means you’re garden doesn’t have enough pests to keep them there.  (They lay their eggs to hatch near a food source – pests!)  The greater garden community benefits from your gracious contribution.  🙂
Buy Ladybugs!
While you’re at the nursery, it’s always a great time to buy flowers.  More blooming things in the garden will encourage pollinators and predatory insects (pest eaters).  Create a border, tuck them in-between veggies, fill in spots where things have died.  Crowding in the garden – in the southwest – will create more micro-climate for your plants (increasing humidity, cooling the area, shading each other).  Here are a few things to look for at the nursery:
Red salvia
Ipomoea potato vine
Petunia
Lemon balm
Basil
Coriopsis
Cosmos
Zinnias
Hyssop
Also at the nursery, consider some great anchor plants for the garden:
Justicia spicigera (mexican honeysuckle)
Duranta (sky flower)
Callistemon (dwarf bottlebrush)
baileya (desert marigold)
Cuphea (mexican heather)
Start your veggies!
If you’re going to plant (more) veggies for the summer, be sure when you buy the plant, you buy the seed.  Seed packets have oodles of info tips on growing veggies.
5 veggies to buy now:
Peppers/Chilis
Melon/Cantaloupe
Pumpkin
Zucchini
Beans
5 veggies to seed now:
Okra
Cucumber
Zucchini
Chard
Kale
5 veggies to harvest now:
Zucchini
Melon
Cucumber
Brussels Sprouts
Eggplant
For more tips on what to do this month, visit the Maricopa Master Gardeners website, or the County Extension Office in your area:

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