In the Garden:
Lower South
September, 2008
Regional Report

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Fall is a great time for planting perennials, such as Mexican mint marigold.

Time To Evaluate the Landscape

This summer has been a long, hot one; but that's not abnormal in the lower south. Most years we experience at least limited droughts in summer and the temperatures often climb to the triple digits. Summer is our second dormant season. Our landscapes move into a survival mode while we wait for fall to arrive and rescue our lawns and landscape plants.

Plants that are too wimpy to survive will eventually die or perhaps remain barely alive and aesthetically unacceptable. Those that are well adapted and properly planted may also struggle through summer, but they will usually return again with the arrival of cooler temperatures and fall rains. Some are so well adapted that they seem to enjoy the infernal heat of summer and never look back, going strong all through the summer months.

Fall Checklist
Fall is just around the corner, and it is by far the best season to plant perennials, shrubs, and trees. With so many wonderful choices that can take the soils and climate, it's a good time to make some changes. Some plants need a little shade, while others prefer full sun. Which plants need to be moved to another location?

What about your irrigation system? Is it watering efficiently or are some areas dry while others are well watered. An irrigation audit may be in order to save money and save plants, too. What changes in irrigation should be planned before next summer arrives?

Many lawns are parched and some have large areas of dead grass. St. Augustine is very shade tolerant and fairly water efficient in the shade, but it requires a lot of water in sunny areas. Drought-damaged turf will soon become a weedy lawn. Zoysia and Bermuda grass are a little more drought tolerant, but they still require water if they are to be kept green.

Some soils are shallow with rock layers near the surface, so it's difficult to keep any turfgrass alive. The solution is to either bring in soil to increase the depth or choose alternatives to turf including ground covers and well mulched mixed plantings of perennials and shrubs. Other soils are very sandy and thus tend to be very prone to drought. There are plants for most any soil and climate in our region so a little researching ahead of time will pay off for years to come in an attractive landscape full of well adapted and well-situated plants.

Take advantage of the mild early morning hours and take a stroll through your yard to evaluate how things are going. Now is a great time to begin the transition from an irrigation-dependant, struggling landscape to a beautiful, summer-tough showplace.


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