September 2005
Victoria County Master Gardener Association
Ground rules and tools
  While cutting back summer growth, choose some for an arrangement
September 1, 2005
Victoria County Master Gardener Intern

Are your Shasta daisies begging to be divided? Are your geraniums drooping? Are you a desperate gardener? September is a great month to rejuvenate your garden.

Trees, shrubs, flower beds and herb gardens all need a good cleaning to promote new growth for the fall. Fall gardens in the Crossroads region are beautiful and with a little elbow grease, yours can be also.

This time of year is really exciting for me, a time to get children ready for the new school year, set schedules and prepare for the coming season. The weather might be on the warm side but now is the time to go for the beauty of a fall garden. September is a wonderful time to plan and install that raised bed you have been thinking about, or plan a kitchen garden.

Moisture has been low in previous months, and watering has become a daily chore in our gardens. Adding mulch and rich organic matter should be on all our lists to add to our soil this month. Mulching will help keep much needed moisture in the soil, keep weed growth down and add a well-tended look to your flowerbeds.

Rejuvenate heat-stressed geraniums and begonias by lightly pinching them back to encourage new growth. Coleus and caladiums require plenty of water this time of year if they are to remain lush for fall. Landscape horticulturist William C. Welch suggests lightly pruning out dead or diseased wood from trees and shrubs. Hold off on major pruning until mid-winter. Pruning now may stimulate tender new growth that could be damaging to the plant in the event of a frost. Therefore, it is better to go for the old dead wood, weak unproductive growth and old seed heads.

Tip back roses now to stimulate a new flush of growth, for a final burst of fall color. Do not take off much and apply a light application of fertilizer, watching for black spot disease. Black spot can be present with frequent rains, when they return.

September is also a good time to prepare beds and plant spring-flowering bulbs. Again keeping in mind the bed and soil, raised beds and generous amounts of organic matter will improve water drainage. Bulbs will rot without proper drainage. According to our master gardener manual, bulbs should be planted by loosening the soil and making a hole with a trowel or bulb planter. Mashing the bulb into the soil may damage the bottom of the bulb and can cause the bulb to rot.

Raised beds are helpful with growing flowers for cuttings. Just the extra 4 to 10 inches in elevation adds a nice kneeling or sitting area. Raised beds add interest and texture to the landscape. The local library has several books on the various types of raised beds - and they are well worth the research. These beds can shed extra moisture when rain is plentiful.

Research is still out on the lavender in my garden that came from Fredericksburg. September and October are the time to plan and plant wildflowers for spring blooms.

Check supplies now and secure the seeds for planting in open sunny areas. Lightly till or rake the soil prior to planting. Some to consider are the bluebonnet, Indian paintbrush, coneflower, fire wheel, black-eyed Susan and evening primrose.

Another "to do" this month: Divide spring flowering perennials such as Shasta daisy, gaillardias, iris, rudbeckias, cannas, daylilies and liriope. Replanting or sharing with neighbors will give these perennials time to re-establish before cool weather.

As you are sprucing up the garden and cutting back some of the old growth, keep your eye out for blooms and plant material that could be saved for a nice arrangement. Use a sharp, clean knife to make a diagonal cut. Using shears or scissors can crush the stem and damage the vascular system not allowing water to travel up the stem. Therefore the blooms and buds will not last as long.

Cutting flowers in the early morning and placing in water immediately works best. Remove leaves below the water level. A commercial cut flower water conditioner should be used, and these are available at the local hobby stores.

Extra fillers can be placed in the arrangement such as evergreen, boxwood, or yew, or experiment with what is available in your yard. Be careful to not place any cut flowers near ripe fruit; the gas produced from overripe fruit will shorten the life of cut flowers.

September is also a month for new learning opportunities. The Fall Gardening Symposium and Plant Sale will be sponsored by the Victoria County Master Gardeners on Saturday, Sept. 24. I will present "Cut Flowers from the Garden" during the noon luncheon.

One of the most enjoyable experiences I have had in becoming a master gardener has been attending workshops at Texas A&M. The Benz School of Floral Design holds several workshops during the year for Master Gardeners. Weeklong courses are also available for the more serious designers and florists. The Benz School is a wonderful place for a flower lover to explore art, nature and creativity.

Word has it that symposium attendees will have first grabs at the plant sale this year. Call the County Extension office at 361-575-4581 for more information.